tagSci-Fi & FantasyLady Winter

Lady Winter

byLien_Geller©

Author's Note: Hey folks! Late winter contest entry here. Hope you like it. I've put this in sci-fi/fantasy but you should probably be aware that this story has elements of Romance/NonHuman/Mature and even perhaps a little horror going on. It's a slow build up too and it deals with things like the afterlife so if that's a hot button for you then now might be a good time to quit. Well, I think that's my initial disclaimer finished with. I hope you enjoy!

*

For many people in Great Britain the twenty fifth of December is a very special day. Churches celebrate their reason for existing. Children eagerly rip open carefully wrapped sheets of paper to free their heart's desires. Families sit around the biggest table they know of and eat until standing upright becomes problematic. Chestnuts are apparently roasted on open fires, or so we're told. Even the sternest of individuals smile if they think they hear the sound of bells outside their window pane.

You'll notice that many of the reasons this day of the year is so special often occur whilst people are sitting inside. This is mostly because going outside is often a good way to encourage frostbite in the extremities.

So, for Mr William Bennet who was occupying the driver's seat of a very old and very battered van whilst attempting to make his way through a seasonal blizzard, it was not a very special day at all. William didn't like the taste of roasted chestnuts. He had no family to spend the day with, no cooking skill to indulge in and he privately joked that if he ever stepped into a church he might burst into flames. Although given how cold he was right then, that particular fate might not have been so bad.

At the ripe old age of sixty one the freezing temperature had settled into his bones a lot more than he would have liked to admit. The gloves on his hands and the big overcoat he was wearing presented an able enough defence for his body but his face was left open to the deathly cold. His jaw chattered away as his eyes tried to peer through the constant deluge of white flakes on his windscreen in the darkness before him. Why in the hell was he doing this rather than sitting on his couch at home sipping whiskey in front of his fireplace?

William was a repairman by trade and there was nothing quite as in demand during the holiday season than a repairman who didn't celebrate the holiday season. One of his old clients had suggested him to an old lady whose central heating system had apparently given up the ghost in some remote cottage out there in the middle of nowhere. She'd had enough electric heaters to keep her warm enough but since old people and the winter cold didn't often mix well William had packed up his van and headed out at the start of the evening to see if he could help.

When he'd set off it had been snowing heavily but since then the wind had picked up, night had fallen and he was getting steadily more and more nervous about himself rather than old Mrs Pickering with her electric heaters. He couldn't see more than ten feet in front of his windshield and was perhaps overly relying on his one reluctant concession to the modern world: satellite navigation. It was that same satellite navigation that had placed him on a narrow country road in the middle of a field that was growing worryingly whiter by the second.

"Slay bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight..." Will quickly flicked off the all too familiar song as it crackled out over his radio. Now was not a time to start tempting irony.

The momentary distraction was all that the storm needed. It was only a split second but as his eyes looked back to the road he saw the low stone wall too late. His hands clenched on the wheel, violently twisting it to one side as the thunderous inevitable impact wracked his body with shock. The front of the van buckled as steel twisted against stone and Will was flung hard against his seatbelt. His jaw crunched down against the steering wheel making his vision blur and his tongue taste the coppery warmth of his own blood.

Coarse flakes of icy snow battered against his face and as the world once again materialised around him he found that he was slumped against the steering wheel and looking out through a shattered window of the driver's side door.

The pure whiteness of the lightly laying snow seemed to take on a faint blue colour in the darkness beyond. The crash had broken both lights of the van and the incoming white flecks contrasted against the pitch black outside. Winter closed in around him, stealing what little warmth there was from inside the van and replacing it with raw chilling cold.

William shook his head and testingly poked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He'd bitten his tongue as he'd crashed but thankfully the injury wasn't very serious. Using the stinging sensation to regain his wits, he felt the weight of fear sink into his gut. A glance at the front of the van was all he needed to see that it wasn't going anywhere any time soon. It didn't stop him trying as he shifted the gear stick into reverse and revved the engine.

Not even a mutter.

It was time to start worrying. His coat and his gloves were thick but the blizzard could eventually entrench the van. If he stayed the vehicle wouldn't offer much shelter and if he became snowed in on such a remote road he might not be found for days. The small device of his satellite navigation system had been smashed during the impact but he had a reasonable idea of where he needed to go. It was just a few miles. He could make it.

It wasn't like he had a lot of choice in the matter.

Stumbling out of the van, he was careful not to tear open his gloves on the broken glass. Inside the shelter that the vehicle provided it was deathly cold. Outside, the wind howled and the icy temperature bit deeply into his flesh even through his big coat. Snow was settling on the ground, it had been doing so for the last half hour. Before long it would start to make his steps more dangerous. He'd need to take his time. Time he didn't have.

Steeling his own resolve, he tensed against the blistering gale and started walking the road. He had his coat, his heavy boots, thick pants and his gloves. It wasn't so terrible. Or at least that's what he kept telling himself. One foot constantly found its place in front of the other in a stubborn rhythm that matched his increasingly laboured breathing. The snowflakes stuck to the bare skin of his face, settling in his thick grey beard and over his bushy eyebrows.

A sudden heavy impact rattled him as the wind picked up and raced between the waist high walls on either side of the road. The sudden gale almost took his legs from under him. His feet slipped in the snow and he fought to regain his balance. It didn't take him long to start moving again. Gritting his teeth, he reminded himself that he was nothing if not a stubborn old bastard.

As he walked he thought of Mrs Pickering and idly wondered if she appreciated the lengths he was going to in order to fix her heating system. He probably wouldn't be able to now of course. His tools and his equipment were in his van. Still, at least it'd be a better night for her than it was going to be for him. At sixty one he was still in pretty decent shape. His neatly trimmed beard and silver hair were kept tidy and short. A lifetime of working with his hands had given him some impressive muscle that hadn't entirely vanished with age. His body had once been suited to such a trial but the years had certainly taken their toll. The weather didn't help as his chest began to stab and his limbs ached against the whistling wind.

Against that constant barrage his senses couldn't pick up the noise nor see the lights of the car that was blitzing toward him until it was far too late. The sudden flash of the headlights approaching at truly idiotic speed made him lift his arm in an attempt to wave down the vehicle. The car was going fast. Too fast. It was all he could to just flail his arms about in an effort to warn them he was there before his legs were smashed to pieces and he felt the sudden hard impact of the bonnet and then the roof as his body was thrown across the car like a broken rag doll.

Despite it all he was still conscious when he landed on the soft snow that had formed upon the road. He tasted a lot more of his own blood gurgling up from within his throat and there was the pain of hot knives sinking into his thighs and only numbness beneath. Trying to move his left arm proved impossible and so he struggled with his right instead.

Breathing was a problem. He knew at least one of his ribs had pierced his lung when it had snapped against the hood of the car. It was difficult to form any kind of thought before his body convulsed in agony. Above him he heard footsteps and then voices. People were standing around him and he saw their dark silhouettes in the crimson illumination of their car's rear lights. His eyes refused to focus and his voice wouldn't come forth. Maybe he'd his head too hard upon the roof?

"Fucking hell! What were you thinkin' man?" A voice in the dark.

"He came outta nowhere." Another voice, this one was more shaken. The driver?

"We'll get nicked if we call anyone. Look at him. He's gone anyway." The first sounded more detached although both figures sounded likethey were talking from a long way away.

"Well we can't leave him, Robbie." Whined the second again.

"Put him in the river." A third, cooler and calmer voice.

"Fuck off." Both the first and the second replied to the third.

"They won't find him in this for weeks, months maybe if it freezes over." The third voice calmly reasoned.

The conversation should have alarmed William a lot more than it did. He couldn't concentrate. They said some other things before their hands were grabbing at him. Their voices had become little more than muffled mutters in the dark. Fresh hot knives of pain grasped his legs and then slowly started to numb as he began to lose consciousness. He felt himself being carried. For a moment there was heat and a softness beneath him and then there was only the cold again.

He felt himself being dragged over rough stone, his limp defenceless form hanging there over some sort of low wall before his shattered legs were tipped up and he crashed down into water that burned cold. Fire consumed his lungs as he struggled uselessly to breathe. His arm, the only limb that still worked, desperately tried to claw back up to the air above. It was no use. The freezing water consumed him whole and he fell into the blackness below. The fire in him died, the pain numbed and all that was left of him slowly floated down to the bottom of the river.

- - - - -

Given his circumstances it was something of a surprise when he woke up. It wasn't the sound of an emergency room that greeted him either. Probably for the best. Given the state he was in he'd most likely have needed to spend a lot of time consuming all his food through a straw. It wasn't a prospect he really liked the idea of.

He'd yet to open his eyes. Part of him hardly dared. His body seemed restored, such as it was. The softness in which he laid had a pleasant fluffyness to it that reminded him of clouds and he desperately hoped that he wasn't about to have a face to face with St Peter. It took him several minutes before curiosity outweighed fear and he finally had to know where he was. He lifted his eyelids to look out upon the afterlife.

Ice. Ice and snow. It was everywhere. Not 'bad English winter' everywhere either. More like 'Antarctica' everywhere. Everything was made of pure white with enormous glaciers rising above him and spilling around the spires of a castle forged from the purest blue ice. The place was a majestic testament to winter with great towers and a rolling drawbridge settled above a moat in which snow remained settled and unmoved for eternity.

William sat up and realised that something was wrong. He wasn't cold. Temperature didn't seem to be something he felt any longer. He checked his other senses. His eyes were obviously working, he could feel the snow beneath him, the scent of his gloves was easily settled in his nostrils and he tasted the cool flakes of snow upon them. A few claps of his hands showed that his senses seemed to be functioning fine. He just simply couldn't feel the cold any more.

It sure as hell didn't seem like any afterlife he'd ever heard of. Not unless...

He thought back to his days in the army. The girl he'd been seeing was arguing with him. She was hot tempered, red haired and beautiful in a way he didn't know existed until he'd met her.

"Up my arse!? Up my arse he says! William Bennet if you think you're ever putting anything up there then you should know that you've got more chance of hell freezing over!"

Her yells and that distantly familiar playful anger echoed in his memory. Well he'd married her shortly after and after a few years they started getting slightly more adventurous in the bedroom and...

Well it was the only explanation he could think of at such short notice.

The thought did remind him of her. She'd died in her late thirties in a road accident. A bitter thought ran through him as he considered that was something else they now had in common.

He'd never believed in the afterlife and if he had he still wouldn't have liked the idea of it. Never ending happiness for just the small price of your soul? The idea seemed to cheapen what it was to be alive. The only saving grace was that he might have gotten to see his wife again. It seemed that wasn't the way it worked.

With a short sniff he buried those feelings down where they belonged and made his way toward the castle since it was the only sign of anything in the barren wintry landscape.

As well as being hauntingly beautiful to behold, the blue ice castle was also staggeringly enormous. Parts of it didn't seem like they should have been able to stand but gravity didn't seem quite as important here. He walked over the bridge across the moat of snow and under the great gate set into the outer wall. The courtyard beyond was filled with frozen fountains and beautifully crafted ice statues. There was even a frozen likeness of a few trees and he noted beautiful sapphire roses of the glassy frozen substance crawling up the wall beside the gate.

The snow crunched beneath his feet as he looked around and tugged off his gloves along with his overcoat. He laid them over the still fountain and made for the door. He didn't notice the way that they vanished behind him. Not even a chill passed through him despite his lack of winter wear in such an obviously freezing climate. Lifting his fingers to run his hand through the bristly strands of his beard, William pushed the great door and heard the sudden crack as it jerked and forced itself open. The massive arch in which the door was set suddenly emptied as the door split in two and swung to either side in a grating, jerky motion.

The sudden loud noise in amidst all the silence made William jump with a startled little grunt before he peered beyond. Eerie blue light emanated from beneath the ice to show the inner castle. A massive hall lay before him. Great tables were carved from frozen slabs and intricately decorated with various runes and images. Massive pillars lifted to the roof above which was covered in its own great carvings that seemed more magnificent to behold than the decorations of the greatest houses of human worship. William actually stopped breathing as he looked over his surroundings. It was the stuff of dreams. Eerie, silent and stunningly beautiful.

Then he saw the elevated floor at the opposite end of the room and what lay upon it. A great throne: tall, mighty and made of icicles that had been somehow intricately woven together in an intricate criss-cross pattern. The throne itself was encased in clear frozen crystal and seated upon it was a lone female figure.

She was at once the most terrifying and beautiful creature that William had ever laid eyes on. It was obvious she wasn't human despite her womanly shape. Her skin was the same magnificent blue as the ice of her castle, though it retained none of the glassy texture. Instead it was rich and deep as it lightly glittered like freshly laid snow in morning sunlight. Looking at her was a difficult task for modesty and decency called for him to turn away and if he hadn't been quite so entranced he actually might have.

The woman was completely naked save for a crown of silver atop her head. Her body was flawlessly proportioned with slender shoulders that were raised in a confident pose and flowed into the slender waves of muscle along her arms. Fingers as delicate as snowflakes tipped with long nails as dangerous as icicles gripped the arms of the throne as she sat upright encased in her crystal prison.

The beautifully round swells of her breasts were perfectly curved and settled proudly on her chest, their firm supple peaks rising to light blue nipples. Her waist was trim and she had a smooth belly that made his fingers itch to run along the gentle contours of all she had to offer. Womanly hips flared at her waist into a beautiful arch as her bottom rested upon the throne and her long gorgeous legs were parted to show a glimpse of her sex between them. Like her nipples, the skin of those soft petals at the apex of her thighs was a lighter shade of blue than the rest of her. Her bare feet rested on the floor beneath her with heels flaring out and toes pointed slightly inward.

She was the pinnacle of womanly allure until her face was glimpsed through the ice. Inhuman beauty stared out at him and yet like the beauty of winter it was stern, cold and cruel. Her full lips were tightly pressed together and her fierce eyes gleamed like sapphires at all who entered her domain. Hair poured from beneath the crown in waves of midnight silk to those proud shoulders of hers. She appeared to be anywhere from twenty five to thirty five though one had only to meet her gaze to know her agelessness. A mere glance told him that she was truly ancient, everlasting and very, very powerful.

It wasn't until he looked right into those cold blue eyes that he realised he'd been walking towards her. She didn't move inside her crystal prison. The clear ice that she and her throne had been encased within never shifted. Her eyes remained open, vigilantly staring forward at the door to her hall.

That was when William reached out and touched that sub zero prison and felt the ice beneath his fingers alarmingly begin to split under his touch. At fist it was just a small chip beneath where his fingertip had pressed against the smooth surface of the glassy substance. That little mark then fractured into a long crack and that crack splintered into similar veins that spread throughout the clear material. The crackling noise of the ice beginning to break thundered through the silent hall until finally he could no longer see the woman beneath for the fractures were so many and so frequent.

It was then, with a deafening thunderclap, the ice exploded outward in tiny shards. William raised his hands to cover his eyes until he felt the explosion pass him. When he lowered his hands he found himself eye to eye with the great lady who was seated beneath.

Her gaze burned into him at freezing point. Looking into those eyes as they now looked back into his felt unsettlingly as if he'd gone for a quick swim in a bath of liquid nitrogen. She regarded him for a long moment, looking him directly in the eye as she stood a few steps from her throne and a few inches taller than he was. She'd moved with such speed that he hadn't even glimpsed it. One moment she'd been sitting, then the next she was stood there only a few feet from where he was standing.

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byLien_Geller© 47 comments/ 62991 views/ 126 favorites

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