Frost Lily Part 2 by Andrew Johnston

The scroll was crisp and thick within her hand. Flor hadn’t noticed upon approach to receive it, but each scroll possessed several pages. She held it tight, deciding not to peer back to the recruits. They would wait. A wait she was lucky enough to overcome. Plunemar’s return to the south marked another chance for them. I was truly fortunate, she thought. Flor clenched her teeth, rolling her shoulders to distract herself from what the mouse had done. I will have to expect the unnatural. Even from the mouse.

She found her assigned ship after some time. The ship towered high enough and stretched long enough to eclipse the sun. The sun’s rays outlined it reaching to neighboring ships and leaving the one before her dark and intimidating. Her sandals found purchase upon the gangplank. Loud brief plops followed the serpentine shadows of ropes untied from the ship.

Flor gasped. Two avalanche warriors grabbed her by the arms and squeezed them. Her grip upon the scroll loosened as she yanked and twisted. She freed an arm and swung with all her strength. Flor winced and withdrew her fist, its knuckles split from the warrior’s bronze whale bone armor. Blood welled upon them before both arm was captive once again.

The men dragged her down the gangplank and threw her to the dock. Flor winced, shutting her eyes. Granite met the flesh of shoulder jarring, it so fast that her head jerked. Pain ran through her neck, but what hurt worse was what could have gone wrong. The test had been passed. The mouse was dead and the scroll, still within her grasp, should have signaled the start of her training. Flor rolled upon her back, wind toyed with her dress. The warriors touched down upon the dock, reaching, and grabbing her by the arms once again.

“What is this?” she demanded. “I have done nothing wrong.”

One warrior peered over the low collar of his breastplate. His expression unsettled only by her continued struggle. “The Avalanche Warriors of the Sea have no interest in starting from basics with you.”

“That… That makes no sense. Everyone I saw today possessed no training like me. What sets me apart from them?”

The Recruiter joined them from between two smaller ships than the rest. These possessed no defenses and were lined by rows of benches. Chains hung over the benches through evenly spaced holes. A stench of a sailor’s leaving wafted from them, summoning a gag from her lips.

“You were chosen by the queen herself to serve the Crowned Princess Yatzil,” the Recruiter said. “Stop your struggling! The queen won’t have an unruly servant.”

Flor gulped at the swift swish and press of blades to her throat. The chill of her frost form tingled just below the surface of her skin. She didn’t wish to give in, to surrender her dreams, but she wasn’t ready to take on three rutoe.

“Good.” The Recruiter pivoted and waved the warriors on. “You’ll be sent to the temple of Limpe to be cleansed. And then your life of service will begin.”

“How did you learn who I am?”

The Recruiter peered over his massive shoulder. Those who held her arms in a vice and pressed blades to her flesh stopped.

“You already know.”

“How could I?”

Her eyes grew wide, ice formed over her skin and as her eyes narrowed her anger ignited them. The blades at her throat fell away as both warriors fought to stay afoot. Flor slammed her fists together and concentrated. Coughing fits broke out beside her as a sliver of ice formed within her grasp. The Recruiter mimicked her but when his flesh changed it was as if he were a living, breathing berg of ice.

“Oh, look!” he chuckled. “You might be worth training after all.”

Flor used her peripherals. The warriors were dead. Snow drifted from the sky dotting the smooth contours of their armor. A force knocked her off balance, parting her fists and shattering the spear she had tried to create. Her back slammed against the granite, shearing ice from arms. Flor fought to regain her breath, to assert herself. A shadow consumed her before Flor could find her footing.

The Recruiter wrapped his arms about her and pressed, twisting like the muscled coils of a diamond fang. She focused upon freezing him from within but something interfered. She gnashed her teeth and tried again. The air grew heavy with snow erasing the gray blemishes created by cracks in the granite.

She released the vice she placed her teeth in. Niev’s city walls climbed ever up and up, swiftly replacing the expanse of the harbor. Flor craned her neck to find her captor focused on a set of wide stairs. At their very top, a triangular entrance led into the city.

“Why can I not freeze you from within?” she demanded. “Who told you who I was?”

The Recruiter rested her upon the ground, both hands remained a crushing weight upon her shoulders.

“Walk,” he said, nudging her. “I guess no one taught you a tested frost form protects against such things. As for your other concerns there’s no need for me to answer them.”

He was right. And even asking them felt foolish, but in her confusion, certainty felt as vital as air to her lungs. She moved faster to match his pace. Wall sconces flickered beyond the entrance as they entered a short, plain hall. Beyond the light greeting them at the other end a palanquin sat. Its wood possessed a sheen and lined upon its armrests were frost lilies in bud form.

High upon the shoulders of men wrapped at the waist in pale green lumaos, the sun haloed a man. Flor’s lips parted. Her breath fled with tears that burned worse than flame to the flesh.

“You. But why?”

“Because” her father said, “I will not have you sour our family legacy. You will abide by tradition and fulfill your responsibilities to our queen.”

“I will never forgive you for this, Father.”

The noble frowned and then plucked a bate-nich from a tray raised to him.

“I shall have to take such a risk,” he said, placing the fruit back on the tray. “That one will not be ripe enough for the ride home.” Her father received a cloth towel in return and began wiping his hands. “I don’t wish to imagine the possibility of you dying on the sea. Death is inevitable, but our royals will return your body to me instead of committing it to the deep.”


Flor was permitted the dignity of approaching and entering the palanquin of her own free will. Her parents would not permit an incident no matter the circumstances. She strolled at a snail’s pace, refusing to turn back and grant them a full view of her misery. The palanquin was draped in fine pale green silks lacking transparency. At the four corners of its canopy golden owls perched, each with symbols of the goddess they represented. Men stood at the ready to carry her to a destiny lacking the risk and adventure Flor craved. They wore short brown boar fur lumaos, medallions containing the king’s name, and stood firm in sandals that covered their toes in bronze whale bone plating.

She braced herself within the archway at a faint rumble. The doors to her home were closed to her. She was certain her mother hadn’t betrayed her like her father had done. Her mother’s silence was unexpected but necessary. It was her mother who pressed their family seal upon the scroll beginning this whole mess. There was a faint tremor in the noblewoman’s hand only Flor noticed at the time. The performance of this act had occurred one day prior to Flor fleeing for the docks.

A slight whine traversed the bottom of her sandals as she stepped into the palanquin. She sat upon its cushion and felt her bottom sink. One of the men to carry her drew the curtain slowly closed. With the man’s action, Flor sighed, closing her mind off from her dreams. The palanquin rose with precision and ease, descriptions she hoped to apply to her training once out upon the sea. She pressed her chin to her chest. The movement stored away what remained of her ambitions.

Clapping of many sandals breathed through the curtains, the closet joined with whispers of who sat where she did. Some of what family had agreed for their daughter to serve the divinely born. She felt lucky so elegant a palanquin didn’t display the family sigil of every poor girl shipped off to the palace. Flor drew in a breath through her nostrils, refusing to let the long journey be accompanied by tears.

A small oil lamp swaying by the ends of short golden chains cast shadows across her cheeks. It was shaped like that of a jaguar, mouth opened, its flame dancing within upward opening jaws. The anger in such a beast should have resided within her, but her father’s betrayal brushed it aside. He had given her hope before the sun rose. Encouraged her to break tradition.

“I never wish to see him again,” she whispered. Flor eyed the curtains about her, the folds in their silk. There was no way to know if the men beyond were listening. “My heart is filled with eagerness to see the palace. To grant my princess’s every wish.”

She said those final words aloud, then chewed her lip. The palanquin remained balanced. No breathing breached her enclosure. Flor rested the dorsal sides of her hands upon her lap. The blisters across her hands were small, unphased from when she had been thrown to the dock. They were in her mind well earned. The same could be said for her victory over the mouse.

Earned, she thought, but all for nothing.

A solid, booming thrum pressed at the curtains, halting the procession of her transport, and sending the oil lamp into a swaying frenzy. Flor frosted her hands and clasped the lamp, its light filling the ice of her fingers with a yellowish glow. She parted one curtain to find doors of palm-n-oak opened to a courtyard. Beyond a dais at it center steps rose at a steep incline. Flor dropped back onto her cushion as the palanquin bears began moving. Their pace increased crushing un-swept snow, filling the air around her with noise.

Flor gasped, bracing against the sides of her palanquin. Lifting her head felt like a chore as her weight shifted back. She eyed the oil. It no longer swayed but if the men had a misstep, then she doubted her frost form could save her. The lamps flames lashed at its chains, blackening them, but their links held.

After some time, her transport was level once more. She released a trapped breath and pressed her hands upon her knees. The curtains parted swiftly and a hand more calloused than any she had seen reached in. Flor took it hesitantly and found herself upon a plateau that reached around an ever-climbing structure. The wind nipped at her cheek, threatening to unravel the handiwork put into her hair. Few had ever seen the summit of the palace because from down in Niev clouds hid it like a ship in a fog.

Guards in tight fitted well hammered breastplate escorted her through the doors. She gaped at the amount of white tile, not even a fleck of dust could be found. Her escort increased their pace, two to either side, their lumaos whipped at the ground, a looser fit than her dress. Before Flor had time to take in the statues or wall relief the guards had brought her to a plain four-way.

The man who had helped her turned, looking her up and down as if to confirm something. “You’re taller than our crowned princess,” he said. “Do not make it obvious! No one shall stand at greater height than the divine of Niev.”

Flor nodded. Her escort continued right, advancing up the stairs. Am I to hunch like an ape if her eyeline is lower than my nipples?

They were soon at a pair of doors, carved of a palm-n-oak more ancient than her family lineage by Flor’s guess. They creaked open to a room large enough to hold a banquet inside.

“You may leave guards,” said a voice from the balcony. “I will be a moment.”

A long sharp crunched trailed the voice’s last words. A flash of purple vanished beyond the swaying transparent green of the balcony’s curtains. Flor took in the room, finding the bath and bed were at its direct center.

“I will bet the earrings on my person the guard demanded you slouch.”

The princess’s eyeline met at Flor’s throat, which left out her earlier prediction. Flor straightened, folding her hands behind her back. Princess Yatzil possessed a lighter ice blue to her skin than her. The royal stopped short of a chair between the bath and bed and sat with measured grace. The chair creaked but Flor suspected it was the jewelry more than the princess’s weigh that did it. She wore enough to feed every slum in Niev.

“I can promise you my ego will never match my mother’s,” said the princess. She gazed upon Flor blankly like tradition demanded. No emotion. And this royal was the master of it. “There is one task which will remain mine alone to perform.” The royal leaned close, a slow chill left her lips. “I will be washing my own bottom.”

Flor swiftly back and bowed deep. Her every breath searched for passage out of her nostrils as she forced herself to regain composure.

“I’m … sorry.”

“Find me another bate-nich,” Princess Yatzil said, returning to the balcony, “and I shall consider the matter closed.”


Princess Yatzil spoke the truth. Flor found the queen possessed an ego large enough to crush the spines of her palanquin bearers. Each time Flor attended court with the princess the queen grew insulted when words weren’t phrased to her liking. She treasured the moments when the queen kept her trap shut. But the one thing puzzling Flor most through each day was how weak her highness appeared.

She followed Princess Yatzil at four paces behind. The hall echoed from the jingle and click of the princess’s jewelry. Flor traced her memory back to the past three days. The way her majesty wheezed in her speech gave cause to pause. Queens weren’t supposed to be weak in any capacity. She folded hand over hand, shrugging off the possibility that such family illness existed in Yatzil’s future.

The girl was fifteen like herself and true to her word when Flor had returned with the bate-nich days ago. There was too the truth that the young royal never requested Flor steady her chamber pot. She shrugged this off too, recalling the look on the faces of her father’s servants.

“May I speak, your grace?” Flor asked, halting abruptly as the royal turned on her heel. “Um …, well.” Yatzil focused upon her with chin raised. “I’m honored to serve you, but I’m curious about something.”

The princess sighed.

“Are you wondering why I don’t demand more of you?”

Flor nodded, wondering why caution and nervousness was taking hold. Both had crept across her mind, increasing in pace since entering the palace. Perhaps it was a fear for the worst if she stepped out of line. Would it mean difficult and demeaning tasks or something far worse?


“I have never felt comfortable acting as someone divine, someone above others. I’ve also never had any … friends.”

The urge to embrace Princess Yatzil overwhelmed Flor. Her heart ached for the girl in front of her. There was no way to read a nescaran’s emotions unless they grew angry. And with Flor’s experience these past few days Yatzil was the hardest read of them all.

“I can see why,” said Flor.

“How…?” Yatzil said, sneering. “How dare you? I am not at fault. I wanted such companionship from handmaidens, but my title frightens them. I wanted friendship from my brother, but he keeps distant. Truthfully, I wanted more from him, but he has no idea how I feel…” The princess clasped her hand over her mouth, then withdrew it. “Do not get any ideas, Flor!”

Flor met the royal’s narrowed eyes, noticing the burning glow in them. It appeared the tradition her father said had ended remained alive and well. It was sacred to royals, but in Yatzil’s case, more was wanted than intertwinement and continuing of dynasties. She bowed deep and then rose to full height.

“I understand, my princess,” she said. “I will be your friend.”

The rage vanished from Yatzil’s face, taking with it the exposure of jade squares over teeth white as tile at their feet. Princess Yatzil ran her thumb under each eye, casting away tears frozen upon her cheeks.

“Thank you,” said Yatzil, folding hand over hand. “This will have to be our secret.”

Continue to Part 3 on September 9th.

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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