Frost Lily Part 1 by Andrew Johnston

“I will not serve her.”

Flor stomped out of the room, waving away the enticing aroma of roasted boar and fresh bread. The distant creak of her father rising from his chair hastened her steps.

“You’ve no choice, Flor,” he said, snatching a frosted cup of palm wine from a servant. “I will not refuse the queen’s request.”

She turned on a heel, gnashing her bronze inlaid teeth.

“I want to be an Avalanche Warrior,” she snapped, “not some girl emptying the chamber pot of an—”

“You’ll do well not to finish that sentence. Such practice ended long before your grandfather made his family rich. So, keep that to yourself or someone may inform the king.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“No.” Her father drained his cup, resting it upon the table. “But even a father’s care for his daughter cannot keep all things a secret.”

Flor traced her vision beyond the archway into the dining hall. To the servants slowly portioning boar meat and slicing bread for her father. It was obvious who her father meant. She gave him a curt nod, ascending the stairs near the meal maker’s prep quarters. Its heat ran down her skin. Ice formed from her flesh to fight its intensity. Flor took two steps at a time until the heat was banished by the chill of her home.

The balcony to her room raised her mind from the depths of the recent conversation. A breeze danced with the pale green overhang. Flor rested her hands upon the balustrade. Sunlight drew away the dark tint of her ice blue skin. The blisters lining her fingers hissed against the smooth granite. She kept them hidden from her parents, and even the servants. Her people were too observant as both a habit and by law. Hiding her practice sessions was harder to do than the blisters.

“I’d rather—” She peered over her shoulder, listening for movement. The wind toyed with the overhang. She released an at ease breath. “—be gored by a boar than scrub the bottom of a princess.”

Her focus found itself upon the wall keeping Niev’s wealthiest from the rest of the city. Envy gnawed at the nape of her neck. Girls without her wealth possessed a legion of choices. Some even grew to become Avalanche Warriors of the Sea. Her father’s house stood too far inland for her to take in the ocean’s breeze. Upon a ship was the only place her destiny couldn’t reach her.

The Avalanche Warriors of Land held boring assignments. They protected Niev’s people but from what Flor was uncertain. Massive metal plated serpents did the difficult work, rising from the mile wide moat surrounding the city when intruders approached. Flor sighed, withdrawing to her room. She eased into a chair by the bath, slipping free her sandals. Her father hadn’t noticed their condition. Thread bare and dust covered compared to the natural scarlet from the red boar they were harvested from. Footsteps wisped from beyond the doors to her room. Flor snatched up her sandals and thrusted them toward her bed.

A knock matched their pitch as they struck the wall, dropping behind the bed’s ornate headboard. The doors eased open. Her mother entered, resting her painted eyes on Flor. Blankness held the noble wife’s face in a prison of emotionlessness. She was without sign of aging despite thirty-five considered the beginning of a nescaran’s elder years. Flor sat up, keeping eye contact.

“What noise was that, daughter?” her mother said, tone neutral. “You’re three years past your womanhood test. Making unrequired noise unbecoming.”

“It was bird,” said Flor. She drew back a lock of hair, pointing to the balcony. “The creature struck the wall and fell to its death.”

Her mother tilted her head and then strolled toward the balcony. The skirt about her waist possessed a short train, beaded with jade and sapphire owls, sifting over the swept tile. After a swift inspection, her mother faced her. A hitch of her upper lip flashed the cleaned bronze platelets inlaid upon her teeth.

“We both know only seabirds are brave enough to pass over the walls. And even then, some hungry peasant would’ve brought one down immediately. Try harder, daughter.”

Flor reflected upon her feet. The smooth, transparent silks of her dress curtained them.

“I meant to say—”

“Flor, I spoke with your father. You put much at risk for this family by your refusal.”

She rose to match her mother’s frustration. A burning traced itself over her eyes, ice remained at bay within her skin.

“I want to be an Avalanche Warrior of the Sea,” she said. “I will serve our king better if I vanquish fish thieves.”

“May the Four condemn your thirst for adventure,” her mother hissed. “You are not some ape like those women beyond the wall. Your beauty and class belong in the service of royals.”

“I think,” Flor said, struggling to shrug off her mother’s obsession with social class. Her rudeness. “If I am so beautiful and above so many nescarans, that servants work would be beneath me.”

Her mother grumbled, taking hold of the bed’s footboard, and digging her nails into its palm-n-oak. “It is not that way in service to the divinely blessed. Every great house must offer their daughters should the king need them.”

It was a request from the queen that led to her father’s decision. The king seemed more a vassal in matters outside of protecting the city. Flor had only ever seen the queen and the crown princess visit the people, ask the state of the city. She supposed it was the queen who kept tradition going.

“Why must this tradition continue, Mother?”

The question drew the noble’s wife from her perch. And once their eyes met Flor realized all her mother’s words had been a blockade for her feelings.

    “Because if our royals broke away from it, did as they pleased like anyone of divine blood, the people would not allow it.”

Flor pressed a fist to her lips. It made little sense that nescaran’s were duty bound to treat their rulers as gods if they themselves possessed control. Perhaps the people were a check and balance the Four required of their worshippers against anyone craving too much power.

“I know you and father feel as I do,” said Flor. “My gratitude is boundless because of it. I will accept my destiny and serve.”

They drew one another into an embrace, but once her hands had joined at her mother’s back, Flor crossed her fingers.


The sun remained absent, leaving flickering brass oil lamps imported from Pepnar to light her way. Flor’s sandals clapped upon clean swept streets kept tidy by priests of Limpe. The owl goddess’s teachings pressed upon her believer’s purity of everything. Flor slowed short of an arch where the Four chased one another. Their wings outstretched and beaks aimed at the tail feathers of their sisters. She rested a hand to her chest. Her heart pounded furiously.

Four oil lamps away, her father’s house met the street. Gracing its entrance to either side, palm-n-oaks grew, overshadowing the bronze bars of its gate. She knew what would come of her not being present when the palanquin arrived. She knew she had placed her parents under the mercy of Queen Putma. And from what rumor whispered, that mercy was as thin as wind was solid. But her father possessed a value most nobles of Niev didn’t. Flor was certain there would be a riot if the city’s lead bate-nich provider saw the executioner’s spear.

She raced down several short alleys, darkness hiding the light of regular streets. Flor brushed aside unsettling thoughts, for Avalanche Warriors feared nothing, not even the presence of failure. Ice rose and replaced her flesh, crackling over her cheeks, and igniting yellow the hazel of her eyes. The wealthy half of the city possessed a strong authoritative shield against thieves and vagrants. That didn’t stop such people from placing themselves within robbing reach of opportunity.

Scanning the main road, it was absent of the shadows of merchant carts. Flor thawed, exhaling as her flesh felt the light silks of her garb. Her dress hung like a curtain, for all nescarans wore clothing two sizes larger should frosting be required.

“You have not the slightest clue of the danger you pursue.”

Flor sighed.

“I’m sure it will be far more taxing than a princess’s temper,” she said, facing her father. “It’s better to live a life of risk than to rot within one of comfort.”

“Quoting your father’s favorite uncle will not win him over, Flor.”

“His words won me,” she whispered. Flor strolled within reach of her father, tempted to grasp his shoulders, to shake sense into him. “Not every tradition must be followed, Father.”

Her father pressed thumb and forefinger to his brow, an oil lamp hung from its handle in his hand. She knew they weren’t alone. The scrap of distant sandals and a few faint flickers marked the presence of her father’s bodyguards.

“True,” he said, “but I do think you are making a mistake. The life of an Avalanche Warrior of the Sea isn’t what your uncle made it to be.”

Flor shook her head.

“I don’t want to argue my point again. The sun will rise soon and with it, my last chance to enlist before Plunemar phases into the west. I will have to wait one hundred and twenty days and—”

“And in those days,” he continued for her, “you will forget about placing yourself at risk. You will…” He pressed a hand to his nose, withdrawing emotion she’d never seen. “You will be safe.”

Her father bent in his high held posture, pressing both hands upon his knees. Shuffling grew loud and close, but he held up a hand, halting the guards. Flor understood why her parents wanted her in the palace. It wasn’t the danger or training they feared she would face. It was losing their daughter.

“I’m sorry.” Flor brought her father close, rattling the beads of his shoulder necklace. “I never stopped to consider what I was doing to you both.”

The noble in her arms returned her embrace. Distant and deep horns sounded from beyond the city’s walls signaling the departure of fishing ships. Sunrise was close at hand. Flor raised her father’s chin. Tears were frozen upon his cheeks like gems.

“I will not go.”

Her father withdrew, raised the lamp, and a guard approached to take it.

“No,” he said. “It isn’t what you want, and neither is it what I want.”

 Flor drew back as her father’s bodyguards filed into formation. They wore bronze whale bone breastplates and lumaos that hung down to their ankles. Each had their hair bound tight, pinned with a golden frigagator claw, topped by her family’s sigil.

“Go, daughter.”

“What about you and mother?”

“Do not question me. It’s unbecoming of an Avalanche Warrior of the Sea to question her superiors.”

She dashed to hug him, but he waved and pointed.

“Go.” He flashed a grin. “And break tradition.”


The moon was gone from the south, making its way to Nema’s west. It had been named Plunemar centuries before her birth when the Nemamoons danced the world into existence. Flor reached the harbor just short of the sun, breaking the horizon’s seal. Men and women standing a head taller than herself lined up to a table. An old balding man sat at it with a stack of scrolls resting beside him. She removed her attention from the layered wrinkles of the Recruiter’s face to the legions of the king’s longships. They crowded the harbor for what seemed like miles, connected by docks formed of white granite.

Each ship was constructed of palm-n-oak possessing no sails. Six portholes on each of their sides held two functions and neither for viewing the sea. Within the ship’s center, cabins rose level upon level like a pyramid. They were ringed by a railing of bronze whale bone. Flor hoped to receive a position at one of the icicle launchers. They were mounted at every level, capable of launching a short ice spear.


Flor refocused on the table ahead. She molded her face, so it contained no emotion, hiding her excitement. Five nescarans like herself wanting adventure, to serve the king upon the seas separated her from a new life. A life possessing no chamber pots, memorization of royal attire, or onslaught from a princess’s temper.


She followed those who readied to enlist with slight confusion. The marvel of being on one of the ships had held her attention too long. Nescarans were being rejected for service. Two were well on their way back to the city. The few who had been accepted traversed the docks. They vanished within the ships they were assigned, clutching a scroll in their fist. The stack of scrolls was down to three. It appeared joining the Avalanche Warriors of the Sea wasn’t as simple as signing your name. It wasn’t just a matter of offering yourself a service greater than most.

Two scrolls remained.

“You,” said the Recruiter. “Girl. Don’t think for a moment you’ll pass the test. Our king doesn’t need highborn girls with ambition and no skill. Go home.”

Flor pressed her chin to her chest, drumming her toes upon the leather of her sandals. She had rushed it. All of it. The dress she wore was of fine silks, not the rough spun of what her mother called a commoner. The blisters upon her hands did nothing for her outward complexion.

“Are you deaf? If so,” He pointed toward the city, making a walk motion with two fingers, “that is a sign for you to make your way back to your perfumes and luxuries.”

“I will,” she hesitated, chewing her lip. “I will prove I am worthy to serve.”

The nescarans around her chuckled at her timidness. She bawled her fists and met the man’s eyes. He snatched up a scroll and strolled until his height made her feel like a child. The man could pass for a support column if he were made of stone. A scar ran down the center of his brow.

“We’ll see about that, girl,” the Recruiter said, holding the scroll up by its end. “I bet your frost form is smoother than a priest’s shaven ass.”

Laughter reverberated from behind as Flor ground her teeth. Even with her training her frost form was too smooth. Training alone meant no one to challenge her, to give sharpness to the ice of her being.

  “What test must I pass?” she snapped. “I will prove myself.”

The Recruiter folded his arms. Those behind Flor backed away. She hadn’t noticed it, but resting heavily against his rough spun lumua, a sack hung. He reached into it and drew out a plump, squirming mouse.

“Kill it.” the Recruiter said, stroking the mouse’s brow.


“Are you not willing to take life? Our greatest enemy upon the sea are fish thieves. You know what they do to nescaran women. You know what they do to our fishermen before robbing them.”

Flor found herself confused and the Recruiter sensed it.

“You found no trouble freezing a boar from within. If you can earn your womanhood, then earn the right to fight for our king. You’re lucky this isn’t the old days, otherwise, you’d be killing your first man.”

He thrust his hand at her. The mouse clung to his finger, sniffing the air. Its beady eyes drew her attention from those around her, away from the dream she held to her heart. Flor bunched the folds of her dress between her fingers. It felt more justified to kill those wishing harm on her people. She was twelve when the golden moon was wiped from her brow and the boar carried away. Flor blew out a breath, bracing at the chill running over her eyes. Her dress grew tight against her person. The contours of her arms and length of her fingers crystallized. And soon, the only flesh and blood to remain was her tongue, dry from the nervousness.

“We have training to begin, girl,” said the Recruiter. “Most thought this test a waste of time, but you will see—” The mouse narrowed its gaze and snarled. Its tail’s pinkish flesh grew stiff, turning to ice. Its body followed until its eyes flared an unnatural red. “—the mouse in my grip isn’t what you’d call normal.”

Shadows grew around her, trailed by the clap of sandals. Sea breeze relaxed her for a moment before she found the recruits about her had formed a crescent moon. It was as if they thought she were in a fight against a rival. Flor shook her head of imagination and focused.

An immediate chill raked at her body, burrowing deep and rattling the sureness of her footing. Flor brushed away her surprise as her throat constricted. She narrowed her eyes to increase the burning glow within them. The mouse dug its tiny claws into the Recruiter’s flesh. He seethed. Spittle leapt from his lips as those in the crowd gasped. Blood ran over the man’s fingers.

Flor dug deep within herself and planted both feet against a bubbling coughing fit. The mouse’s power over cold clawed at her lungs. She raised a fist at it drawing whispers from amongst her fellow nescarans. The action parted the mouse’s lips summoning mist over its teeth. The Recruiter unfurled his hand until it was flat like a plateau. He watched as Flor and the others did as the mouse stumbled and teetered.

A screech leapt from the mouse. It rose upon its hind legs as its own frost form cracked. Black ice replaced its own, but unlike that of a nescaran, the creature took on a velvet hue. And all at once, it fell from the Recruiter’s hand, shattering upon the ground.


About the Author

Andrew is a fantasy author from southwestern Pennsylvania. He studies history and reviews books for his fellow authors when not writing. He is published by Warrioress Publishing. Primnoire will be his debut novel.





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