Writing Prompt: “You are an adventurer who stops to rest at a small snowy village. The townspeople regale you with stories about an ice witch who turns people into frozen statues. You journey to the mountain to deal with the witch. You find that she is just a misunderstood artist making ice sculptures.”
The mid-day sun cast some rays through the dull haze as a light snow fell upon the town of Sunvendale. It was a small town nestled into the bottom of a snowy mountain range. This was a place off the main road with a small knit community which mostly stayed to itself. However my journey brought me to this snowy town due to the legend of a nearby ice witch. I had heard the tale of the witch from a loud-mouthed bard and I thought this was a chance to gain some glory for myself.
I walked through the cobblestone streets which were mostly empty and quiet. I made my way to the main tavern in the center of the town. This place was the exact opposite on the inside versus the outside. The cold and quiet was quickly whisked away as I walked through the door into a loud room filled with many people all drinking, conversing, and relaxing.
No one gave me mind as I walked up toward the bar where a large, pot-bellied man greeted me.
“Hello Traveler,” The bartender said as he cleared some tankards from the bar. “What can I do for you?”
“I’ll have an ale,” I said as I took a seat on a bar stool.
The man smiled and pulled out a clean tankard from under the bar.So
“One Sunvendale special coming right up,” He said as he started to fill the tankard.
“Thank you,” I said as I took a quick glance around the room.
The bartender put down the ale and I pushed a few silver coins over to him.
He quickly snatched up the coins and pocketed them before leaning on the bar.
“So Traveler, what brings you into town?” He asked me.
“That obvious that I’m a stranger, huh?” I asked him.
He gave a hearty chuckle.
“I see the same two dozen people day in and day out. All regulars. Your face is new,” He replied.
“Fair enough,” I said. “Well I’ve come here because I heard you have a bit of a witch problem.”
At those words the tavern grew silent for a moment as every set of eyes was now on me.
“Chasing legends I see,” The bartender said. “Well I’m afraid that you are here for no reason.”
The man gave everyone in the room a nod and they quickly went back to their conversations and their drinking, with a few more glances my direction.
“I do not understand,” I said. “There was this bard and I overheard him giving a tale. He said there was a witch up on the mountain that freezes people solid.”
The bartender gave a slight smile as he continued to clean.
“Oh there are stories alright. Lots of people claiming witches with powerful ice magic hiding in caves in mountains. However this is just a tale that parents tell their kids. You know, things they say to scare them into going to bed or eating their vegetables,” He said.
“So there is no witch?” I asked.
The bartender shrugged.
“Witch. No witch. It does not matter. Only a fool would walk up into those mountains hoping to find a witch. The people here are hardworking and sturdy, but not foolish,” He said and that was that.
He walked away leaving me with his ale as he attended to another paying customer.
I gave another look around the room as the few bar denizens that still had eyes on me, averted their gaze. I turned back to my tankard and lifted it to my mouth.
A couple of hours went by and I was three tankards in. The crowd didn’t pay me mine as they filtered in and out. Eventually I ordered an early supper which consisted of pork, potatoes, and slightly stale bread.
I sat there contemplating what to do next when an older woman approached me and sat down on the stool next to me.
“You are the man looking for the witch, are you not?” The woman asked me.
I looked at her and nodded, a bit of bread sticking out of my mouth.
“Well don’t let the barkeep scare you off. It benefits him for you to stay here stuffing your mouth and drowning your sorrows in ale,” She said. “He doesn’t understand adventuring. Not like me and you.”
I raised my eyebrow and quickly swallowed a mouthful of bread.
“You are an adventurer?” I asked.
“Was. Was, my boy,” She said as she gave me a crooked smile. “Retired now.”
“But you know of this witch?” I asked.
“I’ve heard the tales, yes,” The woman nodded. “And I’ve noticed something else.”
“Every two weeks a woman comes into town and buys a cart full of supplies. Food. Water. Supplies. Different woman every week but she has the same eyes,” The woman said.
My eyebrows raised again.
“How do you know this is the witch?” I asked.
“Who else could it be? It’s like clockwork I tell ya. Two weeks of supplies and then she returns. Has to be her,” The woman.
“Where does she go after she gets her supplies?” I asked.
“Don’t know exactly but there’s an old hunting trail on the western part of town. Goes up the mountain. I’d put some gold down that she’s the one still using it.”
“Thank you,” I said. “But why are you telling me all this?”
“I did not want your journey here to be a waste,” She gave me a smile.
“And what else?”
She took a moment and then continued.
“The witch is paying for her supplies with coins. Maybe she has more stashed away up there in her liar. Not only gold but enchanted items as well. I’m sure a generous gentleman like yourself would happily hand over the items to the woman who told you where to go,” She smiled a big, toothy smile.
“You are a true adventurer,” I said before finishing my third ale. “You have a deal. I will share some of my spoils with you once I get back.”
“I’m very happy to hear that,” She said. “When do you plan on leaving?”
“Well the sooner, the better,” I said as I stood up from my seat. “There’s no moment to lose.”
The woman looked at me with concern.
“Are you sure you do not want to wait until tomorrow?” She asked. “The snow is still coming down.”
“I am prepared for the cold,” I said as I revealed a silver necklace hanging around my neck. “The witch is not the only one with magic.”
“Enchantment,” She said with a glint in her eyes.
“Indeed. I will head there now,” I said.
“Let me show you the start of the trail,” The woman said as we left the bar together.
She showed me to the beginning of the old hunter’s trail. I lit a lantern and started up the trail and deep into the mountain. The snow continued to come down but the silver necklace around my neck glowed with a dim blue light which dulled the feeling of cold snow and brisk wind. The snow still obscured my view a bit, but the lantern lit my way.
I climbed for a few hours as the sun began its descent. I got to a level clearing of craggy rock and snow. My lantern light bounced off a lot of slick, icy surfaces. I got closer to investigate and a new chill ran down my spine.
At first I thought these were just icy pillars or natural rock formations covered in ice, but as I examined them closer, I saw human-like qualities to them. They seemed to be people made completely out of ice.
“Witch,” I muttered underneath my breath.
I held up my lantern and looked at them all. At least two dozen people, frozen solid. Men. Women. And children. Two small children holding hands, completely frozen, smiles on their faces.
What a horrible friend to freeze literal children.
I turned around and faced a large, icy cave built into the side of the mountain. I held my lantern up as I pulled my sword from its scabbard. I slowly walked toward the mouth of the cave with my sword at the ready.
As I crossed the threshold of the cave, I accidentally brushed up against a bit of silver wire which was set up as some sort of warning system. My leather armor touched the wire and it seemed to vibrate and disintegrate in silvery light.
“Hello? Who’s there?” A woman’s voice asked from deeper within the cave.
There went my element of surprise but I pointed my sword toward the voice.
“Come out and meet your end,” I shouted. “I will not let you harm anymore of these villagers.”
My shout echoed around the icy cave and eventually a long shadow emerged. Following it was a woman about my age dressed in thick furs.
She stood there looking me up and down, rather unimpressed.
“Really? That’s the speech you are going with?” She asked. “My end, huh? Yeah, I don’t think so.”
She spoke in such a nonchalant attitude that I was thrown off my game. I stood there confused as I felt my grip on the sword slipping. However, I quickly regained my composure.
“I will not fall for your tricks, witch,” I said. “I am here to slay you.”
“Uh-huh,” She said. “Who are you exactly?”
“I’m…I’m an adventurer…and I heard that you used your powerful ice magic to turn people into ice. I’ve seen your…your victims out there.”
The witch leaned to her left to look past me at the frozen people on the side of the mountain.
“Victims, huh? That’s an awfully hurtful thing to say about my art,”
“Your art? You are truly heartless if you think that turning people into ice is art,” I said.
“I’m sorry, adventurer. First of all, can you stop shouting. I am right here. Second of all, I think you are very confused,” The witch said. “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”
Before I could respond, the witch turned around and walked back into the ice cave and out of view.
“Uh… you know that I have a powerful necklace to resist your powers,” I shouted after her.
“Yeah I saw your pretty necklace,” She shouted back. “Now get in here before I change my mind.”
I shook my head and slowly walked into the cave. I looked around, keeping my eyes out for any sort of monster or spell or trap she had laid for me. Instead what I found was a basic set up of furniture made out of stone, wood, and ice.
“Come sit,” The witch said gesturing to a chair pulled up to a tea table made of ice. “Also you can put down your sword. You’re making me nervous when you just fling that thing around.”
“Oh…uh…sure,” I said as I took a seat. I did not sheath my weapon, but I laid it across my lap.
The witch poured herself a cup of steaming hot tea and then poured one for me.
“Any sugar?” She asked me.
“Uh…no thanks,” I said.
She shrugged and dropped a cube of sugar into her tea. Then she raised the tea cup to her nose and gave it a deep sniff.
I just sat there staring at her as she did this and she noticed.
“What? Have you never had tea before?”
“Ah. But you think that the tea might be poison or something? Don’t worry. I’d never waste the tea,” She said as she took a sip of her tea.
Seeing that I pulled up my cup, trying not to shake as I brought it to my mouth. The tea’s scent filled my nostrils and I felt a sensation of warmth like I was sitting next to a burning hearth. I took a sip and it was the most delicious tea I’ve ever had.
“Pretty good,” I said.
“Thanks,” She said. “Now explain to me why you are interrupting my evening and blathering about my sculptures.”
“I…I’m an adventurer. I heard a tale that you are a powerful ice witch and that you turn people to ice. Even the woman down in the village confirmed it,” I said.
“Oh, I see you met Gretta. Yeah she’s a crazy bat,” The witch said with a laugh. “Everytime I enter the village, she sneaks around keeping an eye on me. She thinks I don’t notice but she’s not really the best at hiding it.”
“She wasn’t an adventurer?”
The witch shrugged.
“Who knows. She might have been. Probably took too many clubs to the skull. That would explain a lot.”
“But the people! I saw the people outside!”
“You really thought they were people, huh?” The witch asked.
Again the witch laughed.
“I’m afraid not, adventurer. They are merely statues I make from the ice,” She said. “I’m working on making them more and more realistic. The fact that you couldn’t tell means I’m doing pretty well. Of course it was sort of dark and you don’t seem to be the brightest, no offense.”
“Uh…I guess none taken,” I said as I took another sip of tea.
“It’s true I’m a witch of sorts and I have magic, but I don’t have any interest in harming others. I just practice my craft up here in the mountains and I go into town for supplies whenever I need them,” The witch explained.
“But why the secrecy and disguise when you go into town?” I asked.
“We just talked about Gretta right? Well she isn’t the only crazy person down there. A tight-knit bunch but they really don’t like outsiders. I just go in to get my stuff discussed as a different person each time so they don’t get too suspicious. The store owner knows but I just pay him a bit extra to keep his mouth shut.”
“And the gold?” I asked.
“A bit of alchemy on my part. Seems like the stone up here is very susceptible to changing into gold. I just do enough to buy my supplies and keep me stocked up,” The witch said.
“Huh,” I said letting out a sigh and dropping my sword to my side. “I guess I’m mistaken.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not the only person who’s made it up this way. A few weeks back there was this musical fellow. Played a pretty good lute if I’m being honest. Plus he’s got an eye for sculpture. Helped me get my noses just right,” The witch said as she finished her tea.
I let out another heavy sigh.
“So now that you know the truth, what do you plan on doing now?” She asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “I guess I will return back to the village and then head on home.”
“Probably for the best,” The witch said. “Do me a favor and tell any one else planning on coming up here to keep their distance. This mountain can be quite dangerous with the snow and ice. Don’t want anyone falling off the mountain. You just know that will just lead to more blame coming my way.”
“Right. Right. Well thanks for the tea and sorry for the intrusion,” I said.
“It’s not all bad. Glad to get a little company up here. You don’t know anything about sculpting ears do you?”
“Uh…no. Not really.”
“It’s fine. Head on back then. Good luck with whatever adventure you go on next,” The witch said.
I finished my tea and said my goodbye to the ice witch.
I then walked past all the frozen statues, noticing the deformed ears on many, and started my way back down the path toward the village. I couldn’t believe I made such a fool of myself chasing after the legend of some powerful, ice witch. I guess that’s what I get for listening to Bard’s tales and crazy, old women.
Header Photo Credit to Pexels.com
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritignPrompts by u/lordhelmos