A Crystal Maiden short story
Rylai knew she was in trouble. Ice ogres were on the approach from several directions, in groups of two or three. It was as if they were waiting for her to arrive at this exact spot on the plains of ice that is Icewrack, before they emerged from their hideouts for an ambush.
The Crystal Maiden tensed; the hair on the back of her neck stood in alarm. Then she took a deep breath, and calmed her nerves. She counted a total of nine ogres advancing towards her, at angles from which she knew she could not flee. There were five ogre bruisers and four ogre frostmagi. The bruisers were brawny and beefy, and had broad shoulders, bulging muscles on their arms, and wooden clubs with spikes in their fists. The frostmagi were skinnier but taller, and carried with them a staff-like stick. As they approached, Rylai could make out their white and squat faces, with small black eyes, round reddish noses, and elongated, protuding lower canines that could be used to skewer a prey. Each of these ogres looked meaner and hungrier than the one before.
The ogre frostmagi started waving their staffs, drawing intricate patterns in the chilly air in front of them. Hues of blue and white appeared around the ogre bruisers, seemingly in protection. The bruisers raised their spiked clubs, approving of the blue, frosty aura around them. They were getting ready to engage. Rylai knew she has to fight her way out now, and one against nine would be no ordinary battle. She needed a plan.
The ogres were closing in. Hundred metres. Eighty metres. As with all spellcasters, Rylai knew her advantage was to fight in a distance, so the first thing she had to do was to slow the ogres’ advances as much as possible. The ogres broke off into a sprint now. Seventy metres. Sixty metres. A group of ogres sprinting from the south were slightly ahead than the rest—a deadly mistake. Rylai turned to face south, and focused on the elements of frost in the air surrounding these ogres. The tip of her scepter glowed, radiating blue and white light. The harder she focused, the brighter the scepter glowed. Then, with a fluid and practiced swing of her arm, Rylai pointed her scepter to the group from the south.
In an instant the northbound ogres that were two bruisers and one frostmage, found themselves stuck in solid ice from waist down. The ice, formed by the elements of the Icewrack frost, stopped them in their tracks. A look of confusion, then anger, then pain appeared on their squat faces. The ice would hold for a while—ten seconds to be exact—and immobilise them while the resulting frostbites would weakened them considerably. Rylai was satisfied for the time being, and turned her attention to the other ogres.
By now, the other groups had closed in even more. Forty metres. Thirty metres. The groups approaching from the north and northwest were converging onto each other. There were five of them. The ogre bruisers waved their clubs menacingly, determined to get a well-angled swing on their head of their prey. The Crystal Maiden focused once again; the tip of her scepter glowed in response. She could feel the elements of frost in the chilly air around the five ogres. The dissipated coldness could not hurt the ogres, for Icewrack too was their home, but Rylai worked to bring the elements of frost together, compressing them into a dense area right in the middle of this group of five. The elements of frost were eager to cooperate with their Ice Maiden, and Rylai was appreciative of that eagerness. The tip of her scepter illuminated; blue and white light interweaved each other in a magical orb, in anticipation to be unleashed.
Twenty metres now. It was time. Rylai let loose the concentrated elements of frost. Released from Rylai’s magical hold, the frost surged outwards in all directions, as entropy would have them, and struck the foes of Rylai. The ogres were surprised by the sudden nova of frost. The air was so cold that solid crystals were forming in their midst, striking them in their heads, torsos, and thighs. The cold burned into their muscular chests and backs. They tried to run quickly away from this sudden wave of frost, but their legs, hit by the chill, could not gather enough speed. Their pace slowed considerably.
Pleased with her work of magic, the Crystal Maiden finally turned to the last group of ogres that were still untouched by her spells. This group was closing in fast from the east; their clubs and staffs now only a few metres away from her. Rylai knew instinctively she did not have enough time to conjure another nova of frost to deter this group. Her training with the Ice Wizard taught her that she needed to reposition herself in this battle, and to regain the distance between her and this last group of ogres.
Rylai reached to the hilt of a dagger hanging by the left side of her waist. Using her left hand, she pulled the Blink Dagger out from its sheath. Concentrating once again, this time towards to the Dagger instead of her scepter, she stared into a spot on the frozen plains of Icewrack, a spot there was near the still immobilised, frostbitten group of ogres. The Blink Dagger glowed in her hand, responding to Rylai’s will. In the blink of an eye, the Crystal Maiden appeared to the very spot that she wanted to be, just out of reach of the spiked club of the nearest ogre bruiser. The last group of ogres, undeterred by her teleportation, mustered whatever agility that brawny ogres could possess, and quickly redirected themselves towards Rylai.
Now the Crystal Maiden had ample time to conjure another spell of the Frozen Arts, and perhaps her last spell in this battle.
She had placed herself in a good position, in time and in space, to use the most powerful magic in her repertoire. She glanced up at the blue skies of Icewrack; she felt once again the elements of frost, those are that looming high above, towards the heavens. This time, instead of working to focus the elements into solid ice or a concentrated nova of frost and crystal, Rylai trained her thoughts to create shards of frigid ice in the sky.
Other than the three ogres still frostbitten besides her, her other foes were now gaining speed, six ogres’ worth of spiked clubs and staffs ever closer to the prey of their wielders. Fifteen metres. Ten metres.
“Behold the scourge of Icewrack!” The Crystal Maiden let out a cry.
Using both hands, Rylai lifted her scepter overhead, and released the shards of ice from her magical hold. The ice shards rained down all around Rylai in a freezing field of magic and frost, crushing the ogres with their weight. The sharp ends of the shards pierce through whatever magical armour that the ogre frostmagi have conjured. They pierced through the thick ogre hides. One unfortunate ogre had its head bored through; the sharp end of an ice shard was clearly visibly in the ogre’s agape mouth. The ogre fell, incapable of making a final yelp. Another was impaled on both thighs, prompting it to fall to the ice, unable to move any further.
Spinning her scepter overhead, the shards rained for as long as the Ice Maiden willed. Ogre blood that was red gave a sharp contrast to the pristine and the pure and the white of the plains and ice. Rylai put an end to the raining shards. This battle was over.
Against the Crystal Maiden, the ogres stood little chance. But that was not to say that Rylai did not work hard for her victory. She knew that credit went fully to the training of the Ice Wizard, and to the man who had taught her everything she knew about magic and frost.
Rylai took a moment to observe the carnage around her. It was never her intent to master the Frozen Arts so as to kill. But in this day, and in many other days to come, the Crystal Maiden knew that she will be forced again to defend herself.
Just as she began her way back to the heart of the Blueheart Glacier to retire for the day, a voice sounded high up in the heavens: “Noob support, always jungling. Reported.”