Just thought I would post a short story I wrote in 2002! Hope you like it.
FIRE AND ICE
The air was crisp and cold, leaving clouds of condensed moisture to ride the air with each breath. The cobbles of the courtyard glimmered as ice crystals caught the early morning light, sparkling like jewels against the frigid winter morning. Ayran shivered involuntarily as he looked out. His were the only shutters open to the world within the keep.
Already he hated it here. His arrival last night sparked unwanted memories, which only served to fuel his fear and loathing of the bitter northland. A month now lay behind him, a month of travel by ship and beast to bring him to this detested place.
Closing his eyes, he fought against his feelings of anger at having to return. This place brought forth memories he previously managed to hide for years. Facing them was not something he felt strong enough or prepared enough to do. Confronting his fears was inevitable after his father’s death two months past.
A sound at the door alerted him and he moved away from the open window just as the latch lifted and the heavy door swung inwards.
“Ah, you’re awake.”
“I couldn’t sleep Uncle. It’s far too cold.”
Gregor looked to the empty hearth as he replied. “Perhaps a fire would have made you more comfortable. You are not used to this climate.”
“Neither are you.”
Gregor smiled. “I had the sense to keep the hearth well stoked. It’s chill in here.”
“I don’t like fires,” Ayran replied forcefully and turned back to face the window.
The unwanted memory of searing heat and flames rose unbidden in his mind. He shivered at the memory and stared down at his hands, expecting to see scar tissue. His sun drenched skin held no blemish or aberration though. There were no marks on his body at all to lend truth to the memory of abuse.
“I’ve come to take you to the great hall, your father’s widow wishes an audience with you.”
“Already?” Ayran asked as he turned back to his uncle.
“You have to pay your respects.”
Anger boiled within Ayran. He wanted to shout at his uncle, he wanted to ask him why he should pay any respect to a father who loathed him so much that he sent him away. Instead, though, he nodded his head as if in agreement.
Still, the protest at Gregor’s words flashed across his face and showed with betraying clarity in his eyes. He kept his own counsel though. His uncle nodded his approval at his restraint then turned to the door.
Ayran walked besides him in silence, their boots scuffing against the creaking old floorboards the only sound within the silent castle. The stone around them felt oppressive, the weight of it pushing against Ayran so strongly that he felt suffocated, even more so as they took the spiralling steps down to the great hall, small slits in the stone allowing them little light to see by.
As they stepped out into the great hall, the heat of the fires from four hearths hit them, the flames casting dancing shadows into every corner so the walls looked as if they writhed with life. Huddled close to one of these fires a woman sat, shrouded within the red veil of mourning. She looked so small and vulnerable that for a moment Ayran felt confusion. In his mind he saw a towering monster. That came from the memory of a frightened child though and he came before her now as a man.
His attention was drawn towards the far hearth where soldiers were now rising in response to his entrance. They did little more than watch him uneasily though, hands straying towards the pommels of their swords as they parted to allow another man through.
Ayran recognised him immediately although Martyn looked considerably older than he remembered. A shock of white hair replaced the greying locks Ayran recalled and he moved with the stiff gait of an old man fighting against the injustices and ailments of winter. Once Martyn stood before him though Ayran noticed immediately how his eyes were bright and the memories that came flooding back to him were good ones for once.
“Ayran,” Martyn began then faltered. He gripped Ayran’s shoulders, his eyes now filled with tears. “It’s good to see you.”
Ayran glanced once in the direction of his stepmother. “How is she?” he asked more for the formality of the question than out of true concern for her. Of Jaclyn, he possessed little in the way of pleasant memories although he did understand her grief. Losing a husband would be bad enough. Losing the clan’s leader was far worse.
Ayran nodded in quiet understanding then looked over to Jaclyn once more. She was looking in their direction now, her eyes showing her pain clearly, the veil covering the rest of her face so completely any further expression was difficult to judge.
This was it, Ayran thought as he took his first step towards her. In his mind, he had been over this so many times this past month, imagining how it would be, how he would feel. Truthfully, he felt numb and in a way that helped steel him for the meeting to come.
Despite the heat radiating from the fire, he shivered as he reached his stepmother. Close up her eyes glinted icily as she looked up at him and for a moment he faltered.
“I have come to claim my birthright,” he said finally with such cool calm conviction that Jaclyn shrank back.
The ice in her eyes melted as a fire swept through them, the fire of childhood fears. Ayran took a step back as she rose to confront him. To his surprise though, she dropped down on one knee and lifted her hand up to him.
“My lord, you have my allegiance.”
Ayran accepted the cold hand. Fire and ice ruled this unforgiving land. He just hoped he had the strength to temper both.
Writen by Suzie of Su2ieknits