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Forgotten Snow (1-Shot)

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Eclipse, Jul 7, 2015.

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  1. Eclipse

    SkittleBox
    (Staryu)
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    Marshadium Z ★★★★★Dragon Fang ★★★★Luxury Ball ★★★Comet Shard ★★★★Mewnium Z  ★★★★★
    I initially wrote this story a couple weeks ago, in the middle of June. Inspired somewhat by what I had done in writing Solstice for the Spin a Summer Story event, I wanted to see what else I could be capable of doing. As Solstice was initially written under a prompt, I wanted to see if I could get practice by writing another short story under another prompt.

    Fortunately, there is a list of prompts posted as a sticky in this forum section. I thought that was quite a fantastic idea, so I've been keeping a running list of those prompts in that thread I think are useful enough for any kind of writing practice.

    Thus, I took one of those prompts (in this case, the 'snowed in' one) and got to work on it. I didn't want to stray too much from the prompt, so I let the story write its own events as I went along, brainstorming as I wrote. I'm in the process of writing another story similar to that (using the 'wind deity' prompt for right now) but that will come along later.

    And I know this doesn't matter too much, but I'd like to be able to make a bunch of short stories like this, and one day weave them all together if possible. Technically, Forgotten Snow here does take place in the same continuity/universe as Solstice, but the locations and characters are entirely different.

    So, with that introduction, I'll leave you to it. I'll include my notes at the end, some of which are repeats of what I just said above.

    Word Count: 7364

    Main Story:
    Forgotten Snow

    How long have I been here? How long have my body and soul languished here, holding on to a prayer that may never be answered? How long must I remain powerless and unable to change anything? How long will I allow myself to be set up for this? How long until they find me?

    How long will it be before that thing finally gets what's coming to it?

    Winter. People like to associate it with celebrations and snow - a time for people to gather together and enjoy each other's company, while surrounded by the crystalline white that falls from above to gently embrace the land below. And right now I'm dealing with only half of that.

    Winter. People like to associate it with moonlight and falling temperatures - a time when the Sun's realm and grasp over the Earth below is restrained and held back, allowing the planet to cool and recover before the next cycle begins, enveloping all with a blanket of cold. And right now I'm dealing with only half of that.

    Winter. People like to associate it with wildlife and whiteness - a time earmarked by nature being covered in a protective and preserving sheet of white, as the creatures it so nourishes migrate to other areas of the world to continue their lineage, all at the calling and arrival of the bleak midwinter, indicated by layers of snow upon all things inanimate. And right now I'm dealing with only half of that.

    It's all that stupid dragon's fault.

    :::: ::::

    I had paid a visit to an old and dear friend of mine that I didn't have a chance to visit very often. This was mostly because of the sheer distance we lived away from each other - it was four days' journey on foot, and to top it off, a large mountain range separated our two homes from one another. Regardless, despite this daunting separation, we managed to keep in touch with each other; we corresponded regularly through mailings and letters, and we would meet up in person twice a year - she would come to visit me in the summer, and I to her in winter.

    Our homes were like polar opposites, really - where she's from, all of the events, festivities, and symbolism they celebrate and maintain revolve around the Moon and its mysticism, whereas for me, back home we extol the Sun and its sustenance. Neither of those things are wrong, especially not to the exclusion of the other; it was merely two different ways of viewing the skies, and the life they bring to our world. Perhaps some other time I may share a story of one of our visits, but what was more important this time was the return trip.

    I was on the way home from my friend's place, and was two days' journey out from there - I was halfway home, now preparing to cross over the mountains that so separated us. The route was not an untrodden one, though traffic was not always often seen, especially not in the 'dead of winter', as they called it. I made sure always to time my visits very carefully, so that the snow and ice to and from there would not totally impede my journey, and not once had I encountered an issue with my way being obstructed by winter itself.

    Until I heard that noise. That...terrifying noise...

    It was a bizarre mixture between a shriek and a roar, a scream and a yell, and one which made my stomach churn within me. I felt utterly paralysed by fear, as if something was going to come for me and I would be powerless to stop it. I chanced to look up to the sky above...and I saw it. Its figure was partially obscured by the cloud cover and the falling snow, but it looked like a dragon, with wings in the shape of icicles. I had never seen - or heard of - this creature before, so naturally I didn't know what to think other than just pure fear.

    My feet were rooted to the spot. I no longer heard the familiar crunch of my boots against the snowy ground, as they refused to move. My eyes followed the trail of the gargantuan creature as it traced a path directly above my head. I don't know how far it was above me, but it almost entirely blocked out my field of vision as it flew past. I felt like it was flying past the mountain, but not long after I heard a noise like something heavy being dropped onto the ground.

    That was no sooner followed up by a noise reminiscent of an earthquake. I could see the very ground I was standing on begin to shift and sway, and looking up I could see the rest of the mountain doing the same. The noise began to be magnified beyond measure, expelling all sound but its own. The shocking realization of what I was now in the midst of triggered my adrenaline response...and I acted.

    "Avalanche!"

    My words were utterly swallowed up by the falling snow as my feet took off forward, looking for the first place for shelter I could find, not paying heed to whatever consequences I would face from finding it. At this point I figured that escaping the avalanche had more priority than facing the anger of any potential dweller. Luck seemed to favour me as I dashed into the opening of a nearby cave and ran as far in away from the outside as possible. But all that luck seemed to evaporate as a thick wall of snow completely sealed off the entrance, cutting off my only way of escape.

    :::: ::::

    It was only supposed to have been a momentary outing, an excursion to meet with an old friend, but it had now become my entrapment. I had heard no such stories or rumors of any dragon around these mountains, and had others known of them they surely would have told me. Yet I was not armed with knowledge, and now here I was paying the price for it. I was trapped and all alone.

    No sense in wallowing here waiting. Time to observe my current environment.

    The only illumination found herein came from the lantern I always carried about with me. I had set its emission of light to a lower level, as it was still daytime outside and I didn't wish to waste its power. It was quite a special lantern, an artifact from my country, running on solar power and would recharge itself simply by exposure to the Sun. Of course, now that that was cut off, there is only a limited amount of light I have left.

    This cave seemed to be about eight feet tall from floor to ceiling, and twenty-five feet long from front to back, and all of it was laden with snow. The entrance had been sealed off entirely by the avalanche, and not even a speck of light crept in past the impenetrable snow wall. Towards the back of the cave there appeared to be crates of some kind, some of which were shut, but others had already been opened. I took a peek inside the opened crates, but found them all empty, and I had no way to open the others yet, not that I could see.

    I certainly would have no shortage of water, as I could just scrape the snow off the walls and ingest that. Given enough time I could probably eat my way out of here, though the snow was so tightly compacted - and in abundance - that might end up turning into a chore and I could very well be dead by then. Then again, if I do nothing I'll die here anyway.

    Thus I had to weigh my options. First, there was the matter of how to scrape off or remove the snow from the entrance, and at present I had no way to do that. Second, there was the matter of opening the crates and seeing if there was anything in them that could help my escape. Third, there was the matter of rationing what remaining light I had in my lantern, and using it very judiciously - every step I now made determined every step that would follow it.

    I went for the crates first. There was no convenient tool lying around that I could use, so I would have to rely on my travel knife to pry the lids open. I might bend or break the knife, but if I could use the contents of these crates to get myself out of this icy dungeon, I could always go buy another. It took a bit of wiggling and forcing, but one of the lids of the crates came off with a snap. I emitted a yelp of joy, but then also hoped my knife hadn't snapped along with it. Thankfully it had not, and was quite intact.

    Inside this box was a bunch of dried food, some oil, and a bunch of knifes and other cooking utensils. Good, I wouldn't go hungry if it came to that, but what was a cooking shipment doing here? Perhaps it was left behind as extra weight by the last person who was here? I couldn't say. While these things would increase my duration here, none would actually assist me in a potential escape.

    I moved onto the next box and did much the same thing, which took a similar amount of effort to open. This one was full of all kinds of vials and papers, most of which were sealed and bound up in the form of scrolls. The vials were all made of glass, and stoppered with cork, and I didn't feel like fiddling with those, lest I accidentally break one and die by toxic inhalation or something. But there was one object in particular that stood out to me among the contents of this box, and one to which my eyes were inexorably drawn to.

    I say this because whoever chose to package this box must have gone to great lengths to conceal it, because even hidden and tucked away, and placed inside a velvet bag, it seemed to glow with a faint blue light. I reached gingerly to lift it out, and after extricating the item from its pouch, I saw that it was a small hexagonal mirror, only a few inches in diameter and seemingly engraved with crystal. It looked like a beautiful piece of workmanship, painstakingly crafted by the hands of a fine artisan. I examined it thoroughly to see what else I could find out about it - I started by examining its back, which was adorned with a snowflake-shaped insignia, elaborately carved like the rest of the piece. I then turned to its front, and found my face reflected in it virtually perfectly, with no imperfections or distortions of the light.

    That was a mistake.

    No sooner did the eyes of my reflection gaze back into mine were they then replaced by the glowing red eyes of another creature. I only saw its visage for a brief moment before it returned to my own, but it was a horrifying face, defined by two downward-sloping slits for eyes, and set about by translucent V-shaped blue plates forming the shape of a chevron as its head. In that very moment also, I felt the cave shake very briefly, as if something very far above me was moving.

    As before, I was paralysed by fear. It was as if, even deep within the confines of this frozen prison, devoid of light and comfort, I had been found out, a pair of eyes staring back at me from within the form of a strange yet beautiful artifact. In my panic I quickly placed the mirror back in its pouch and hurriedly returned it to its previous rest. As I did so, a very real fear, as cold and as real as the snow that confined me to this cave, began creeping through my body.

    I had been discovered. And, while I would normally be extremely glad to be found and rescued in my current situation, I had no guarantee or even hint that this would happen to me. In fact it seemed to be the opposite - those eyes that stared back to me through that mirror seemed to gaze into my very soul. I had become a target, and my life was in danger for as long as that mirror was near to me. I tried to forget what I had seen, but I could not - those red eyes, and the stare they brought with them, were seared into my memory.

    I wanted to just sleep and forget it all, but I couldn't. After all, if I slept, whatever was gazing at me through that mirror might find me and...

    No. I could not think of such things. I must adhere to a plan of escape. Clearly no tools in that box were of any use, so I went to move to the third - and final - box of the set. Unfortunately, those plans were cut short immediately, as this box was bolted shut by four locks - one on each side of the lid. I had no keys, lockpicks, or any such tools on my person, so that was out of the question.

    Wait a moment, what if another of the boxes had some thieves' tools? The thought intrigued me immensely! After all, if whoever had these boxes before saw fit to keep a magical mirror in an unsealed box, think of what other wonderful objects I might find in the sealed box! Quickly I dug through the other two boxes I had opened, setting aside the food, oil, and various papers neatly into different stacks, to sort through the entirety of the belongings. But, despite thoroughly searching the contents, I found no keys or lockpicks of any kind. I was rather disappointed, but I should have expected it wouldn't have come this easily.

    :::: ::::

    The passage of time didn't seem to mean much to me anymore. The thought of a sky overhead seemed foreign, the thought of an outside environment a fleeting dream. I didn't feel optimistic about escaping this cave any time soon, and while I did have the food and resources to sustain my existence a little longer, what point would it have? It would be better for me if I had just left it alone, so I could accelerate my own demise. I had no faith that anyone would come and save me. I was merely waiting until death would finally take me.

    Nothing new had happened since I espied a glance at that mystical mirror, and that had been a few hours since. I believed that whatever had seen me had since given up the chase, as I heard no strange noises in or around the mountain since. I was growing tired, but also growing hungry. I decided to scrounge through the boxes to see what food I could muster for dinner, and in the morning I would be renewed to fashion an escape strategy once more.

    I knew it would be a miracle if any of this food would still be edible. Thankfully, a lot of the food was jerky, already dried, and fantastically well-preserved by the cold that this cave had to offer. I downed a couple sticks of those and washed it down with some water from my canteen, then used the burst of strength I acquired from the nutrition to take my knife and shave off some of the ice by the door, putting it in my canteen, knowing that it would melt by morning. Using my knapsack as a makeshift pillow, I laid my head back on the cold ground, propping my neck up, wishing for myself pleasant dreams, and a strengthened resolve for tomorrow.

    I only got half of that.

    I know not how much time had passed, but I opened my eyes to find nothing but blackness around me. A snowstorm blew all about me, with such detail and at so close a range that I was able to make out the details on each individual snowflake. Yet despite being captive with wonderment, I felt a large weight holding my body down, rendering me unable to move...which was only compounded by the immediate fear that followed.

    Two red slit-like eyes flashed from within the darkness, immediately growing closer to reveal a reptilian head. It looked not unlike the face of the creature I had seen in the mirror before, and this association filled me once again with a strong sense of dread. I could see behind the face a large neck and body, with two wings spread out before it, all wreathed in the shadow behind. The beast must have been huge, thirty feet tall at least. And here I was, lying down, forced to my spot, staring right at it.

    "I will find you!" it emitted with a hissing voice, forcing the words past its throat with a malevolent seething. "You cannot hide forever!"

    "N-No..." I mumbled, murmuring, trying to hold it off. "Don't..." My words were weak and powerless, not only to me, but undoubtedly to the creature.

    "You will not escape!" it continued, its hiss now escalating into a full threatening shout. "Give it to me now!!" Its hand reached forward to grab me, and I screamed as hard as I could manage as its talons came to encircle my trapped self...

    My body suddenly shot upwards with a jolt, and all was dark again. I was breathing heavily, and was currently experiencing a cold sweat. I looked about this way and that, but there was no sign of the creature, nor was there any light or other being to be seen here. My hands felt the floor, still laden with compacted snow. That was right...I had been shocked awake by my nightmare. I had been sleeping, and the terror caused me to spring awake.

    Very slowly I laid my head back upon my knapsack and returned to my lying-down position, but I was still shaking from fear. I could not bring myself to rest easily, not with a threat of a nightmare like that looming so close nearby. And to think that its artifact was so close at hand, resting in one of the crates near me... And there was nothing to save me. I was terrified and shaken. I shed tears, feeling the grips of despair, fear, and loneliness take hold of me all at once. Oh, how I wished this had never happened...

    :::: ::::

    Still nothing but darkness around me. My pupils had probably dilated to their maximum size at this point, as the only light I could still receive was from the lantern I had brought with me. I was lying down once more, and I struggled to move myself into an upright position. I groped about in the dark and found the lantern at my side, as it had been before I laid myself down to rest, and adjusted it so that I had just enough light to see. I didn't want to increase its intensity, for not only did I have a limited amount of light, but a large amount of it reflecting off all this snow would be enough to blind me.

    I don't remember drifting off in the night again, but I must have. No night visions came to terrorise me; no horrific creatures came to claim me. The rest of my slumber had proceeded peacefully, but I still could not forget that face. It had to have been the same face as in the mirror. It had to. But how would such a thing taunt me in my dreams - or, better, why?

    I don't know what time it was right now, but regardless I had to get some more food in my stomach if I were to stand any chance of surviving...or escaping. I shuffled over to the crates once again and dug out some bread and cheese, which had been wrapped thoroughly and preserved, like all of the other food in here. I was beginning to wonder if these crates were once part of a postal delivery, but they had been left behind as unnecessary waste.

    I might as well look at the contents of the crates at this point, as I yesterday had sorted and extracted all of their contents out, organizing them into neat little piles. I'll start with the food crate... 3 loaves of bread, all tightly wrapped, somewhat stale but still edible. 2 large bottles of wine, sealed and untampered. 5 kilos of jerky, dried and perfectly fine to eat. 1 block of round cheese, I couldn't tell the type as the label was too worn. 10 ears of white corn, that looked okay to eat, but I wouldn't chance it. 3 potatoes that had long since turned green - I'm not going to touch those, as that would be a painful way to die. 3 kilos of green beans, kept nice and fresh by the cold air. 1 head of lettuce, also preserved by cold. Two 1-litre flasks of water, plus two 1-litre flasks of olive oil, hermetically sealed and unopened. Various kinds of sheathed knives and other cooking utensils. If this was what was left behind, I wonder what else they had with them. I would like to imagine that this wasn't all of the food, but it might have been.

    Though, what intrigued me much more was the second crate, as that seemed to have a lot more valuables in it. I sorted through what secrets it was hiding... 8 glass beakers stoppered with cork, all of which were empty - or at least appeared to be empty. 3 black containers for liquid, all of which were tightly sealed. Several varied manuscripts all bound with cords and seals into scrolls, which appeared to contain instructions. 3 translucent salt-like crystals of varying colour, large enough to fit in an opened palm. A small cauldron, cleaned and polished. Various types of herbs stored and pressed to preserve their shape and texture. All of these seemed like things that would be found in the office of a chemist or apothecary. Perhaps these were medicinal supplies? Or perhaps their true use was for something more...sinister...

    Oh, and of course, there was the mystical mirror, glowing with a blue light from within its crimson velvet bag. Despite the fear that gripped me from it, it also instilled within me a sense of awe and wonder, as to what caused the mirror to be that way. Clearly this was some sort of magical artifact, but how did it end up here? And who placed it here? I was tempted to open the bag and examine the mirror again; I reached my hand forward, but suddenly snapped it back, not wanting a repeat of the previous events. I hurriedly pushed it away again and scooted myself back until there was some distance between us.

    :::: ::::

    For lunch I had decided to vary the diet a bit by ingesting some of the vegetables. They weren't the best of foods, but I can't expect too much from a crate that's been in an icy cave for who knows how long. And I haven't gotten food poisoning yet, and food is food, so I can't complain.

    I had spent the last several hours before that working on the cave's exit with my knife, slowly yet steadily carving away at the snowy wall, hastening my progress towards freedom. I had become quite pleased with myself in forming a small circular gap in the wall, allowing me more wiggle room to force a way out. I wondered if any of the substances in the second crate were explosive, but without knowing for sure, I did not deem it wise to investigate any of them, for fear of blowing myself to bits...and I hadn't given up just yet.

    I worked near the top of the exit, as if by chance there were more snow up above waiting to fall, it would not collapse too heavily and force the door even deeper. Chipping away at the bottom of the snow wall would have not helped my chances in that regard. And though my progress was slow...it was better than nothing. I began to smile, pursuing my task with a newly found vigour. As each infinitesimally small piece of snow felt off the wall, I felt a little closer to my ultimate freedom. Seconds quickly became minutes became hours, and the gap in the wall became larger and larger. I didn't know how much digging I still had left to do, but I gradually became closer to an eventual exit. This was going to work!

    Even the following day could not serve to dampen my spirits as I set about the task again. The passage of time meant nothing to me in this dimly lit tomb, but that mattered not to me. What mattered was that I was going to get out of here, alive, and in one piece, and I would have quite the story to tell upon returning home.

    Shortly after lunch I got back to work again, and I heard a dull roar come from higher up somewhere in the mountain. It felt like the roar of the dragon that had flown overhead two days before, though heavily muffled by the sheer amount of earth and ice that separated us. The roar was soon followed up by a brief tremor which, although it only lasted a fraction of a second, had a tremendous effect. I could see the wall of snow before my eyes shifting, as pieces of the snow above slumped down towards the ground. I could hardly believe it - I could see the outside! Light poured into my small little cave, and my lantern was similarly appreciative, glowing a little brighter as it absorbed more sunlight. My effort had paid off - hope had finally arrived!

    Not two seconds later, even more snow fell down to take its place, thus closing off the gap and passage to the outside world, sending the cave back into its prior dimness.

    And I screamed. I yelled. I raged. Words were inadequate to express my anger. I shouted my complaints, not caring that no one was there to listen.

    "That's it! For two whole days I've been stuck here in this snow prison! I had a way out and now it's ruined! Ruined!! It's all that STUPID DRAGON'S FAULT!!!"

    I kicked one of the now-empty crates (the first one I'd opened), causing it to spin through the air and land a ways off from where my foot made contact with it. It landed upside-down and made a jingling noise. I was surprised and confused at this noise: I was surprised as I feared that I'd broken something, but I was confused as I was sure that I'd taken everything out of the crates. I dashed over to right the crate, and sure enough, nothing was in it, and nothing was broken. So what had made that jingling noise?

    Overcome with curiosity, and momentarily forgetting my situation, I scrutinised the crate thoroughly, and found something most peculiar about its inside. Looking closer, I had confirmed my suspicions - it had a false bottom. I looked for the gap whereby it could be lifted up, and did so. This new compartment was only an inch thick - enough to conceal the false bottom quite well - and contained only one item: a small bronze key, with a sapphire set in it. My mind instantly jumped to a conclusion that this might be the key to open the bolted third crate. Without another thought I grabbed the key, and tried one of its locks. It took a bit of fiddling, but it worked, and the lock clicked open. Repeating the process with the other three sides, I removed the locks and opened the crate's lid.

    What I saw astounded me beyond belief.

    Everything in this chest was some kind of valuable. Gold, jewelry, regal attire, heirlooms...anything that could be imagined to be here and have great monetary value was here. How exciting! Perhaps these were the remains of a heist, kept under lock and key, secrets protected by a false bottom in one of their crates, and stored here should things fall into the wrong hands! Perhaps the crates had been left here on purpose in case they would have to hide from the law, and the crate full of scrolls and vials was yet another testament to the criminal activity!

    Extraordinary! Though I did wonder, who was the original target of the heist? Perhaps there was a clue in one of the stolen treasures. I took out two items, chosen at random, from the treasure crate. One appeared to be a ceremonial urn made of polished steel, and the other was a medallion with a golden centerpiece but with wooden beads along its cord. I analysed the objects thoroughly, and after a bit of searching (and turning up the lantern's light a bit), I found they did have one thing in common: on each of them, there was imprinted the shape of a snowflake insignia - the urn had it set into its underside, while the medallion had it as a design on its centerpiece.

    Wait a minute. Wait a minute! What if the reason it came here was to--

    It may have been foolish of me to do this without any sort of planning or thought, but I rushed again for the hexagonal mirror I had looked into before. I removed it from its velvet bag and held it gingerly in my hands, but saw naught but my own reflection. Was it broken? Was the creature no longer listening or paying attention? Or did it no longer care if--no wait, there it was again. Those two red eyes set in that translucent blue face...that creature, it was here, staring back at me, as I stared at it.

    I shrieked, hands gripping the mirror for fear that breaking it would doom me forever.

    "Who are you, human!?" it hissed from the mirror, which began to glow much brighter, illuminating the cave with blue light. "What are you doing!?"

    "D-D-D-Don't hurt me!" I stammered, voice weak with the fear that had restrained me before. "I want to l-l-l-live!"

    "You're holding the mirror!" it shot back, voice still filled with utter rage. "Explain yourself! Now!!"

    "I'm s-s-snowed in... In a cave... I f-f-found these crates..."

    "I have no reason to believe you, thief!"

    "Wait, let me explain! Please! I am no threat to you! Give me a chance!"

    "Hmm..." The intensity of both the mirror's glow and the creature's voice seemed to lessen to a moderate level. "Very well. I can tell this encounter is no accident. Go on."

    "I was...on the way home from visiting friends in Mooncrest... I was walking home to Sunstreak, and I have to pass over the mountains... I saw this huge dragon fly overhead... I think it landed on the mountain, and it caused a huge avalanche... I panicked, and ran for the nearest cave opening I could, but the snow totally covered the entrance and even blocked out the outside light... I've been in here for two days and I want to go home..."

    I could hear my voice whimpering at the last sentence. The creature said nothing as I spoke to it. Its gaze remained constant, ever fixed on me, as I stared back at it. It did not interrupt once, and did not speak until I had stopped.

    "Where did you find the mirror?" it asked, very calmly, a sharp departure from its initial aggression.

    "I was looking around the cave... I had my lantern, so I could see, and there were three closed crates in the back of the cave. One of them was locked so I couldn't get to it. One of them just had a bunch of food and water in it, and the other had glass vials and papers. The mirror was in a velvet bag tucked into a corner of the last crate."

    "So that was you I saw then."

    "Yeah..."

    "And you quickly hid the mirror away again."

    "Yeah..."

    "Why did you take it out again?"

    "It was because of what I found in the locked crate. One of the other crates had a false bottom, and the key was hidden inside that, so I opened it, and I found a lot of stuff..."

    "Stuff? What kind of stuff?"

    "Treasures, jewelry, coins, emblems, heirlooms...that kind of thing."

    "...Point the face of this mirror towards that crate. I wish to see this 'stuff'."

    "O-Okay..."

    I don't know why I agreed to do that. I probably didn't want to incur the creature's wrath any longer, and at this point, it was more expedient to appease it than to refuse its requests. Besides, it might be willing to rescue me, if we remained on good terms with one another. Yet, when I turned the mirror towards the crate, the mirror's glow intensified, and the mountain began to tremor slightly.

    "What...What is the meaning of this!?!?" the creature yelled, its rage evident and growing ever stronger.

    "Please, calm down!!" I pleaded. "You might bring down the mountain! Please, wait!!"

    "...Hmph..." came the reply. It was reluctant, but the shaking stopped. "Fine."

    "Sir...did you come to this mountain to look for your treasures?"

    "...Yes. They were...stolen, many months ago. We have yet to track down the thieves responsible, though we know how they got in."

    "How did they?"

    "That is not your concern. What matters is that these treasures must be returned to their rightful owners. Tell me where you are."

    "Wait! What about me?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Can I...Can I ask a favour, of you, sir...um..."

    "You may address me as Tundra."

    "Sir Tundra... I'll gladly hand over the mirror and the rest of these treasures, as they aren't mine anyway, but...my family is expecting me home today and I have a feeling they're worried sick about me. News of the avalanche might have already reached them and I want to tell them I'm all right. So...can you rescue me from this cave and take me back home to Sunstreak?"

    "Hmm..." Tundra seemed to be milling the matter over in its mind, as if deciding it wished to follow through on this course of action. "Very well. I see no problem with this. However, I have one condition."

    "Please, anything."

    "As you have asked a favour of me, there may come a day when I may ask a favour of you in return. While I am extremely grateful to you, human, for locating the heirlooms and treasures of my people, there may come a day in which I may need your aid to accomplish a task I may not be able to do without a human's assistance. I believe it is called 'owing me' in your vernacular. Is this acceptable?"

    I wasn't quite sure what to think. My mood was currently a mixture between relieved and appalled. Why would Tundra want me to repay a favour to it? Didn't I do it a favour by helping it find its treasure and mirror? Granted, it might have found them anyway, but I helped, and I had been trapped here for two days! Yet, given the circumstances, I saw little else to do. Should I have refused, I would still be trapped, and Tundra would still be looking - and my life was the one in peril, not Tundra's. Plus, the thought of owing a favour to this creature was somewhat intriguing. What might it have in mind for me one day, I wonder?

    "All right. I agree. I'm about halfway up the height of the mountain, inside a snowed-in cave, that is about a half-mile away from a log cabin further up the trail."

    "I will be able to locate you. Please wait."

    The face of Tundra disappeared from the mirror, and once again I saw my own reflection, unmarred by imperfections or distortions of light. I did hope that Tundra would rescue me soon; I really wanted to go home again and seem my friends and family...

    Suddenly, the snow-walled exit that kept me in this cave was quickly and forcefully cut away, thus flooding the cave with light. I scrunched my eyes shut and curled up into a ball, not being used to so much light at once.

    "Agh! The light! It burns!!" I yelled. "I need to adjust to the light!"

    "Are you all right?" I heard a voice say, deep yet calm, and concerned about my well-being.

    "Yeah, I'll be fine," I replied as I squinted and blinked repeatedly, my irises adjusting to the new level of light - which was a normal level, but having been trapped in that cave for two days, came as a tremendous and luminous flood. As I looked up, I got a full view of my rescuer - a dragon that looked at least thirty feet tall in appearance, hunched over to see inside the cave, and with wings like frozen curtains spread out to its sides.

    "Ah, it is you," the dragon spoke with a small modicum of joy. "The heirlooms, can you bring them here?"

    "You're...Tundra?" I asked, somewhat surprised, yet also anticipating an answer in the affirmative. It was the exact same creature that had attacked me in my nightmare, yet now, it seemed much tamer than the aggressor I had come to know...

    "Correct. I am Tundra. Now...do you mind?"

    "Oh, not at all..."

    :::: ::::

    What followed immediately afterward seemed to compensate for all of the hardship and struggle I had endured thus far.

    I brought out the crate from within the cave as requested, and just as surmised, Tundra confirmed that all of those were stolen objects from its homeland, all of which were extremely valuable in their own right. Whoever had stolen them would most likely have tried to sell them for cash, but for whatever reason that plan never came to fruition.

    In a gesture of kindness I wasn't entirely expecting, Tundra offered to take me home first before returning the treasures - it remarked that Sunstreak was much closer, and making a trip to return the stolen things first would waste time. I sat upon its back as it flew through the skies above - despite being a dragon presumably made of mostly ice, I didn't find sitting all that cold. Slippery, maybe. Quite an enigma.

    Tundra introduced itself as being from a land far away called the Frozen Boundary, a land of ice shelves and constant blizzards year-round, an environment where only those specially conditioned for it could survive for very long. It was sent out by its superior to locate and retrieve those heirlooms that had been stolen many months ago, and it had managed to trace their location to near Mooncrest. It did apologise for snowing me in, however, as it certainly wasn't its intent to attack or harm any humans. When it came time for me to repay my favour to it, Tundra said, it would make sure that my time spent entombed in the snow would be compensated.

    Naturally I was very intrigued by all that Tundra had related to me, and on the flight back to Sunstreak - which, for Tundra, took only two hours or so - I bombarded it with a myriad of questions fueled by my curiosity, desiring to know more about this dragon and its homeland. I had known from all of the legends about dragons that they were mythical and usually magical creatures, but I never had a chance to interact with one quite like this. The two of us shared stories and such about our respective past experiences and our own homelands, and while Tundra was rather reluctant to respond to certain questions, those it was willing to answer it expounded upon in substantial detail.

    After Tundra had deposited me only a few hundred feet away from the town in which I lived before departing into the skies above, I quickly made a mad dash for my home, eager to not only be reunited with family, but to truly rest and relax after my tumultuous four-day journey - two days to get to the mountains, plus two days of being stuck there. My father embraced me warmly and stated he had expected me a few hours before, and was absolutely worried sick. I slyly countered by asking when dinner would be ready, and said I really needed a bit of rest after what I'd been through. With a knowing sigh and smile, he relented, allowing me to head back to my room and sort out my things.

    Unpacking my belongings after a long excursion away from home was a very methodical affair for me. I took each item out individually, set it upon my bed, and sorted it into its own category in preparation to store once more at home, re-folding clothes if necessary. I had my week's worth of clothes, a small measure of pocket money, some personal food reserves that, due to the crates, I thankfully didn't dip into very much (I debated bringing some food home from the cave, but I didn't know how safe it was to actually eat), plus a few other personal effects - including a stuffed animal I've had since I was a child, a special trinket and good luck charm, and a crystal mirror kept in a velvet pouch.

    I didn't steal it. I tried to return it like all of the other belongings, but Tundra insisted that I keep it. Upon asking why, it responded that it would need a way to find me to repay my favour to it. Looking at that mirror now... It's gone from being a nexus of fear, to a hope for escape, to a looming presence. I had to avert my eyes and shy my gaze away from it as I put all of my other belongings away in their proper places. When I was all done, I rolled up my sleeve so that the shoulder was visible, afraid of what I would find - and knowing that I would find it.

    The mark of the snowflake insignia had been imprinted on the skin of my shoulder. Tundra had seared it into me, and said that the mark would be removed when the favour had been repaid, but I had my doubts. After all...for those 15 seconds, I felt as if all heat and warmth had been completely drained and expunged from my body, and I was momentarily reduced to a quivering heap before the sensation dissipated. Tundra remarked that a human bearing that insignia was considered to be 'a friend of the Frozen Boundary' and that, should I ever wish to visit, I would not be turned away. Of course, Tundra never told me where it was, so other than hunting out extremely cold regions on a map, any courtesy visit to the Frozen Boundary would basically not happen.

    I had my doubts about Tundra now. What would it ask for as a favour? What could it possibly want or desire from a human? What were its goals and motives in holding all of this over my head? I didn't want to deal with it anymore; I wanted to forget this had all happened. But no, I could not. I never would. And so I would live in constant fear of a dragon who would one day seek a favour from me, and who had branded me until then as being associated with its people.

    But for now, I had stories to share about my trip. I know my pen pal back in Mooncrest would be dying to know - and it's dinner time now, after all. The table talk I shall bring will be enrapturing.

    Author's Notes:
    I'll say up front that this story here was made in much the same style as Solstice, and is in fact a story set in that exact same universe and continuity. It isn't really apparent that it's stated as such anywhere in the text, as there are no definitive ties between this story and features of Solstice, but I can assure you that it's set in the same universe. You will probably notice one parallel: the protagonist lives in a place called Sunstreak, which extols the sun and its sustenance - just like Brighton's kingdom. I didn't give Brighton's realm a name before, but I have now. Mooncrest (whose name I thought up first) is essentially its counterpart.

    Like Solstice, I tried to adopt the writing style I did then, only revealing what details were necessary for the story - and this time I managed to get away with a lot less. There are only two characters in this story (if you don't count the off-screen pen pal and the protagonist's father), so as far as character description goes, not a lot was required.

    My original intent was to have Solstice (Brighton's daughter) be the one trapped up in the mountains, but I changed my mind, instead intending for the protagonist to be a faceless everyman, to whom anyone in the audience can relate to. The protagonist can be literally anyone - none of the protagonist's features and appearance are described in any way, not even gender, and the protagonist's actions are set up in such a way that any kind of person can step in and fill the shoes, performing the actions. Heck, if you want, the protagonist can be YOU. I might actually give the protagonist a real identity in a future short story, but for now, the protagonist is whoever you want it to be. It doesn't matter too much, and I don't need to give the protagonist a name anyway because it's not relevant to the story. All that is known is that s/he lives in Sunstreak and has a father. It is not even stated at what point in time this all happens either - though if it were Solstice, it would have to be before she ever met Eclipse, as the protagonist has mentioned never meeting a dragon before.

    Then there's the other character, Tundra, the dragon, who - as following the tradition of other dragons in my stories - is genderless. Tundra had moved to the mountain range to search for its nation's stolen treasure, which was hidden in a cave that it had unintentionally forced the protagonist to be trapped within. I wanted the dragon to be an instrumental part of the story, and make it so that the dragon was the protagonist's only way out, rather than try to escape with its own means - which is why I purposefully didn't include gunpowder in any of the crates. I portrayed Tundra as an unknown aggressor whose actions unintentionally hurt those it came into contact with, though who had the best intentions at heart. It is also duty-bound to its home nation (the Frozen Boundary), so that drives its actions as well, including asking a favour of the protagonist again later - which I will probably get to in another short story.

    I wrote this towards the end of June 2015, as I was inspired to go off one of a writing prompt I had seen - in this case, I went with the 'snowed in' one - though in the process I noticed that I had made this short story as a parallel and opposite to Solstice, as it takes place near the start of winter - the opposite of the start of summer. I could probably use this for some other prompt for a competition too, I'd bet.

    I don't have too many other thoughts or notes to point out as there wasn't a lot in this story to share. The events are relatively simple and there's only one main plotline going on (though Tundra's quest - or even the treasure thieves - could be elaborated upon at some other time). I'm not sure what is with me and people befriending dragons, though it's a really interesting theme that I haven't tried very often and I'm enjoying tampering with the style. Being a bit more open-ended with the details is nice too, as a lack of info dump means that I won't be confined to a certain mindset if I want to connect this story to something else. (I plan to, of course, but the open-endedness means I'm not beholden to any pre-existing standards at this point.)

    Hope you enjoyed reading this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it!
     
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  2. HiddenLore

    Time Master
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    I really enjoyed the writing here. Your protagonist has a great voice, and is decently decisive. Even though I know this is a one shot I wish I knew what the favor would be, I'll just have to imagine it myself I guess.
    Thanks for sharing this peice.
     
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  3. Eclipse

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    I wanted to write the protagonist just so that it could be essentially anyone, and that any reader can easily and reasonably place him/herself in the protagonist's position. Throughout the 2-day span of the story, the protagonist goes through a myriad of situations and responds in all kinds of ways - adrenaline, careful thought, fear, necessity, respect, and so on.

    I do plan to write a story of some kind in the future exploring that favour further - though whether or not it'll be short I cannot say yet. It does certainly serve for a nice segue into another work, and while I could have touched a bit on it now, this story was more about the trap and rescue. The favour is a story for another day. I certainly won't forget about it, though, as it is a loose thread that can and must be investigated in the future.

    Thank you for enjoying my work; I am most appreciative.
     
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