Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cold Fire by Nicole Gestalt

The trail ahead was dark. Now that she was in the forest, she could no longer see the ground in front of her. Stumbling, she fell, her foot catching on a tree root. Crying out in pain, Alice forced herself to get back up and continue to run. In the distance dogs barked, and she could hear the sounds of her pursuers breaking through the undergrowth.

Straining to breathe, Alice ran on, stumbling at almost every step. Moving through the forest was hard going, every movement causing sharp pains to shoot through her bare feet. Sweat dripped into her eyes, making them sting and her vision blur. Wiping it away didn’t help, yet she kept on running.

Alice had no idea how much time had passed as she ran, nor in which direction she was headed. It was a moment before she noticed that the forest in front of her was beginning to thin and grow lighter. Running towards the area, she felt the earth underfoot quickly become wet and soft, then grow hard and bitterly cold. She began to lose all feeling in her feet as they pounded against soil that steadily became frozen the further she ran. The dogs sounded closer and she heard the men shouting. Turning, she caught a glimpse of their torches before her foot caught on an unseen obstacle, twisting underneath her. She hit the forest floor hard. Pain shot through her foot and up her leg, as she clawed at the remains of the fallen leaves, writhing in the cold. She rolled over to face the men as their shadowy forms moved through the trees towards her.

The dogs burst out of the surrounding trees, closely followed by the men. The burning torches lit their faces, twisted with hate and bitterness. Using her good leg, she pushed herself backward and continued to crawl slowly onward. Her heart raced, and she knew it was all going to be over soon. One of the men moved closer, barely holding his dog back, allowing it to bark and growl at her face. The beast’s saliva dripped onto her shoulder and she flinched away as it snarled at her. Alice closed her eyes as the rest of the men approached, not wanting them to see the fear that glimmered there in her unshed tears.

The dogs’ barks echoed, making them seem to be everywhere at once, and Alice waited for what was to come. She wasn’t sure how long she sat, nor could she say when everything went still, only that she slowly became aware that she was encircled by a deathly silence. Sitting still, the only noise Alice could hear was her heart beating. A shiver ran through her, and when she dared to breathe in, the air was icy cold. She felt chilled to the bone, and as Alice listened nervously, trying to hear anything, she thought she caught the sound of a gentle tinkle that reminded her of watching the frost forming on her windows in the dead of winter. The ground around her froze and grew icy under her fingertips. Alice couldn’t say what it was, but something didn’t feel quite natural about the whole situation. Scared, she blindly tried to back away from the peculiar noise, but as she began to move her hands slipped and she fell, causing her head to connect with the frozen ground. The last thing she heard as she slipped into unconsciousness was the tinkling growing deafeningly loud.

* * * *

Kevalan heard the commotion before he could see it. He waited, hidden by the foliage, as a panicked woman fell through the trees closely followed by a pack of baying hounds and many men. He knew of the village that they had come from, but it was the first time he had seen any of the people in many years. Anger filled him as he watched them chase the woman. When she fell, the men and their dogs quickly surrounded her. Only then did he step forward from the shadows. He gained a small amount of satisfaction at the fear and panic that flashed briefly across the men’s faces. As one, they all turned and ran, their hounds following closely behind, though it seemed more out of obedience than fear. Once they had gone Kevalan turned his attention to the young woman, now unconscious on the ground. He picked her up, noticing her blood-coated feet and the scratches covering her body. She weighed almost nothing in his arms and carried her easily as he carefully walked back to his home.

Over the years, many visitors had taken up brief periods of residence at his palace, but never anyone he had had to rescue. As Kevalan took her to one of the guest bedrooms, he wondered why she was running. Her clothes seemed nothing but rags, and readily fell apart at his touch. Laying the young woman down, he moved to clean her wounds and then gently bound them with soft cloth. Her skin was slightly tanned, and she had the look of someone who had worked outside her whole life, although she was painfully thin.

Kevalan looked upon her. He had pulled the covers up over her so she wouldn’t get cold. Hopefully she would wake after receiving the rest she apparently needed. However, as he gazed at her, he felt a stirring deep inside

Kevalan was an immortal being. His task, since time immemorial, was to travel to different planes, bringing the ice and snow that the worlds needed. The plane he was currently on, he visited only once a year, at their winter solstice. He kept to himself, and although occasionally village elders would attend a meeting with him to discuss a problem they were having. In more recent years, with magic fading, this had become an increasingly rare occurrence. Most of the people he met were in fear of him, or thought he would do them harm in some way. Now, as he watched the woman sleep, he felt a longing to be touched, a need for companionship and a fear that he would once more be left alone.

Filled with the urge to lay down with her and keep her safe, but frightened at the thought of scaring her and being left alone once more, Kevalan left the room. He walked around the palace for a time, unable to get the image of the woman out of his mind. He found everything about her tantalising; when he had picked her up she had smelt of the trees, her warm body had caused tingles to run through his own, her breasts had pushed up against him, causing his body to react to her closeness. Without realising it, Kevalan found that he had stopped just inside one of the central rooms in the palace. The walls were lined with mirrors through which any and every room could be seen, heard, and even scents smelt at will. Kevalan wasn’t sure of the purpose of this room exactly, just that it had always been this way. He rarely entered this room since he was on his own and it only served to remind him of that loneliness. However, now, as he looked over the mirrors, he located the one that portrayed her room and his heart leapt at seeing her.

At the furthest point from the mirror he could see her sleeping form. She had obviously been moving in her sleep; the covers had slipped a little from her body and he could just make out the gentle curve of her soft breasts. He could just smell the trees and her own warm scent as if he was still holding her. He wanted to kiss her ruby red lips, to take away the pain from her injuries and to hold her in his arms before lying her down and making love to her.

Visions of her naked body swam in front of him. Their bodies entwined as he pushed his cock deep inside her. Unconsciously, his hand had slipped into his breeches and he had taken hold of himself, as the images consumed his mind he began to move his hand up and down, pumping it faster.

She screamed out his name as they made love, raked his back with her nails and thrust her breasts up for him to suckle. Keeping her in his tight embrace, he pushed himself deeper into her; with each thrust, their passions overriding anything else, forcing them to act solely on their desires and physical needs. He kissed her passionately as he exploded inside of her, his body tensing before they collapsed and held one another lovingly on the bed.

Kevalan let out a cry of pleasure as he came, then a swift wave of guilt at losing control and playing with himself to her image flooded through him. Still, he stood for a short while, looking at the mirror. His eyes prickled with tears as he thought of her leaving. He knew it was strange to see her as part of the palace ,since she had been unconscious and hadn’t even seen him, but he hoped perhaps she would stay. There was just something about her that made him feel complete and he knew that he would feel more acutely alone if she left.

He wanted to be there when she woke up, to try to explain how it was that she came to be in a palace of ice. Once he had sorted himself out, he swiftly made his way to her room.