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Out of This World Writing Contest 2020: VoidDancer's entry

Prompts: Dreams and Nightmares, Fantastical Creatures, Winter Forest

The room was dark and cold, barely warmer than the outside where a blizzard was covering the world under ice and snow. It was hard to tell what time it was, the storm had been raging for days and swallowed all light. Alnair turned from the window and gravely turned to Idara. “It is time.”

He raised his paw and drew a series of symbols with his claw, leaving glowing runes hanging in the air. Idara took a deep breath and downed the potion she had been working on, the too sweet liquid coating the inside of her beak. She nodded at Alnair, who gave her one last look and with a word of power send the runes her way in a wave of pure magical energy. Blinded by the bright light she closed her eyes and felt a weird sense of vertigo before everything around her went quiet.

When Idara opened her eyes again she stood in a clearing. The branches of the surrounding trees were laden down with snow and the only sound reaching her was of snow sliding to the ground with a muffled thud when gravity won out. The air was still and icy, her breath clearly visible in front of her. The sun was gleaming down, making the snow and ice around her shimmer with light. She ruffled her pale feathers and turned trying to find anything that would give her an idea what to do next. Seeing nothing she spread her wings and took to the air, perhaps a bird´s eye view would help. The forest stretched until the horizon, ice and snow covering it all. A river snaked through it and she followed its course hoping that like everywhere else, life would be drawn towards the water.

She was not sure how much time had passed, it was hard to track with the sun shining unchanging from above and the land below being as uniform and quiet as it was but eventually a mountain appeared in the distance, a lonely peak like an island in the middle of the sea of trees surrounding it.

She kept flying towards it, noting that despite the effort to stay aloft in the icy air without warmer currents to help her, she was not tiring.

The mountain loomed larger and larger, much higher and menacing looking than it had seemed from a distance. Sharp icy crags seemed to be reaching for the sky like claws, a lone sentinel making sure that nothing dared move in the lands below its watchful presence. A shudder ran through her, by now she was sure that this was her goal, the reason why Alnair had sent her here.

Winds began to buff her, carrying with it ice and snow, although the forest below was as unmoving and still as before. The air howled and raged around her, almost seeming to have a mind of its own, playing a cruel game of cat and mouse with the owl that dared enter its realm. The swirling snow got thicker and blinded her. Jagged ice appeared right in front of her and she barely managed to fold her wings and bank to the left to avoid hitting it head on. Another gale of wind grabbed her and pushed her towards the icy walls again and this time she was helpless. A blinding pain shot through her and she fell.

An indeterminate amount of time later she was surprised to open her eyes again. She remembered falling, icy spikes drawing closer and there had been enough pain to draw her under into blessed unconsciousness. She carefully stretched her wings and found that she could move both of them, although she was convinced at least one had been broken when the wind had driven her against the cliff face.

“You are a curious creature.” A deep rumbly voice said and Idara whirled around. A white dragon towered above her, eyes blue like the purest glacier ice looking down on her. She felt her heart racing. This was why she had come, whom she had hoped to find, the Spirit of Winter. She had known they would be terrifying but reality was even more overwhelming than she had expected.

The massive head came closer, one of those sharp eyes, almost the same size as her, getting a closer look. “No one has dared disturb me in a thousand years, yet here you are.” A slit tongue slithered out and tasted the air in front of her, icy breath hitting her and making her fall back with a gasp. “Mortal, but with a taste of powerful magic. Not yours though.” Another icy huff that made her lungs feel frozen. “Why are you here?”

With that he thankfully drew back, once more towering over Idara who slowly sat up, limbs stiff with the intense cold radiating from the dragon.
“I – “her voice faltered and she had to start again. “I was sent here to bargain. Someone has tempered with the weather; winter storms have been ravaging the land for weeks now.”

A deep growl was followed by ice splintering when the snake like tail of the dragon shattered a pillar of ice. “You foolish mortals! Winter is my domain, who dares challenge me?”
Desperately Idara tried to cover her ears with her wings, the thundering voice being almost as painful as a physical blow.

“We don´t know. We only found traces of magic in the storm but could not trace it to its origins. We only know that if nothing is done, the real world will be as frozen as your realm in a matter of weeks.”
“I see.” This time the voice was as quiet as snowfall at night, deadly and dark as ice. The great body tensed and immense wings snapped open, the resulting displacement of air again making Idara fall back into the snow. “Please…” she called.

The dragon´s head snapped around to her once more. “What more, mortal?” he ground out. “I have heard your plea. Balance has to be restored. What more do you want?”
“I…could you send me back? The old scroll we found only had information of how to send me here, not on how I could leave again.” She gulped. If the dragon did not send her back she would be trapped here, condemned to an eternal existence in this frozen plane.
The spirit huffed, furling its wings once more. “I suppose you have earned that right.” Without further warning he lunged forward and its giant jaws closed around her.

She sat up with a gasp, eyes wide open, heart racing. Warm paws came to support her, a quiet voice murmuring reassurances that made no sense to her panicked mind but helped calm her. Her wide eyes eventually turned to the side, finding Alnair next to her.
“Welcome back. I take it you were successful.”
She nodded shakily. “How do you know.”
A slow smile graced his face and he stepped to the side, giving her a clear view of the window through which bright sunlight was flooding in, no trace of the storm in sigh. “See for yourself.”