Inspired by some fairy tale that I found somewhere. It may have been Dutch, possibly called 'daughters of the snow-king' maybe by an Elliot person and was horribly written; I remember that much. I've vastly improved it, methinks.

This is only the beginning.


The Ice King's Sons


Tandir looked out over the frozen vista spread beneath his feet. Snow covered the landscape like a soft white blanket, the sunlight reflecting off every crystal until the view was as bright as the hottest fire Tandir had ever danced with.

Not that he could ever mistake the brightness for warmth. It was too pale, too cold.

This whole world was too cold, Tandir reflected, turning away from the cliff's edge and beginning to head down the mountain. He didn't understand why any fire-dragons would attempt to resettle here where it was so cold. Not that he needed to understand why the dragons did what they did. He was merely here to lend aid to the Ice-King in getting rid of the flaming nuisances.

Snow crunched under Tandir's feet as he watched carefully where he placed them. He had to concentrate, not only to avoid slipping on the hidden ice, but also to avoid melting the snow as he passed. His inner warmth kept trying to heat up the world around him until it was a cozy temperature, and not this abominable freez-

"Aaaahhhrrrgh!" a shout echoed across the snow.

Not sure if it was pain or aggression or the need for help, Tandir looked around. He couldn't see much beyond the icy walls of the mountain's sides, but nearby—close enough for the sound to have originated there—was a column of smoke and steam rising towards the cloudless sky. There was a flicker of red light at its base, and then the shout came again.

"Bloody dragons," Tandir muttered, hastening down the path to a place where he could make his way across the mountainside rather than down it. He skidded and slipped, but managed to cover the distance to the source of the smoke quickly enough.

He stopped at the top of the ravine, looking down into it to see what had transpired. There was a ruby-colored fire-dragon down there, steaming and weaving her head back and forth, tiny flames flickering out of her ears as she growled and snapped at a very small person who was trapped between her and the side of the mountain. She took a deep breath and blew out a small lick of fire—clearly her main fuel source had been severely depleted already—but it was easily deflected by the young man's shield.

What idiot kind of knight does he think he is? Tandir wondered. Few men were stupid enough to go up against a fire-dragon alone, even a small one like this. And, of course, 'small' was a relative term, since the dragon was still at least three times as tall as the man facing her. Best save him from his stupidity, then, Tandir decided, backing up from the edge of the ravine. Saving one of his people was probably a good way to begin relations with the Ice-King, after all. He walked over to the nearest snow drift and did his best to shove it over the ravine's edge.

It trickled down like a tiny avalanche, clumps of ice and snow falling onto the dragon's red hide and hissing up immediately as steam. It was enough to distract her and she turned towards the source of the disturbance. "Hi!" Tandir shouted, waving his arms at the fire-dragon as she lifted her head over the edge of the ravine. Run, he thought at the idiot trapped at the bottom, whom he could barely see from the corner of his eye. But the idiot didn't run, just stumbled a little bit and leaned heavily on his shield.

The movement caught the dragon's attention once more, and she started to turn her head back to her earlier prey, so Tandir grabbed a handful of snow, packing it and aiming it at her head. It hit her square in the eye, and she rumbled angrily as she blinked the snow away and focused on Tandir once more. Idiot can't move, Tandir thought, I need to get her away, and preferably killed. He stumbled back as she climbed out of the ravine and onto his ledge, her movements slow from the cold. As she scrabbled to get her last foot up, Tandir started running back the way he had come, going slow enough that she could follow him as he went.

At least she's not nesting. The last thing Tandir needed right now was the maternal instincts of a fully-grown dragon. Or the timely arrival of her mate. No, no, he had enough to deal with in just this one adolescent female.

He made it back to the path and up to where the steep sides of the mountain began to close in. The ruby dragon slithered after him, not bothering to try and fly in the cold air. She'd lose heat too fast that way. Still, now that she was moving more her muscles had warmed up, and she crept across the gray stones and white snow like a trickle of blood, sunlight flashing off the edges of her scales. Tandir always felt regret when killing dragons—they were so beautiful. If only they'd stop trying to eat humans.

"Hi!" Tandir shouted again, waving his arms so she wouldn't fail to see him. He used some of his inner heat to melt the snow of the path she was trying to slither up, the cold air freezing it into ice in an instant, leaving the dragon to scrabble her way up the incline.

Finally she got fed up and paused to draw a deep breath—typical dragon behavior, if it frustrated you, burn it—and while she focused on melting the ice once more, Tandir slipped to the side of the path, and carefully made his way along an upper ledge until he was over her neck. He dropped down, wincing as he landed astride her, but clutching tightly to her scaled hide nonetheless. She bucked underneath him, trying to remove her unwanted passenger, but before she could Tandir drew his sword and slid it into the soft spot above the shoulder blades where the heart was closest to the surface.

Orange blood spurted out as the dragon thrashed and cried in pain. The blood felt unpleasantly warm to Tandir, and his sword was unaffected, but where it hit snow or rock, both hissed and steamed away.

Once the beast was fully dead, Tandir slid off her neck and began measuring the head with his hands, looking for a certain soft spot—there! He drew his knife and sliced away the skin, reaching inside to pull out the curious gem-like red stone which, as far as they understood, was the dragon's inner ear. He retrieved the one from the other side, and then cooled and cleaned both in a snow bank before slipping them into a pocket.

"Better go check on my idiot," Tandir muttered as he scrambled over the rest of the dragon's corpse en route back to the ravine where he'd left the fool.

"Hi!" Tandir called once he'd reached the edge.

The young man at the bottom of the ravine hadn't gotten far. He'd made it to the wall and then sat down on an uncomfortable-looking boulder, his shield leaning at his side. Now he looked up at Tandir, his face dark with soot. "Hello!"

"Are you alright?" Tandir called, looking for a route down. Not finding anything better, he slid down in a cascade of snow, deciding to deal with getting out of the ravine later. "What?" he said upon landing, realizing that he'd not heard a word of the young man's response.

"I think my leg is broken," the young man said. "And now I'm stuck in a dragon's lair with an idiot and a dragon on the loose."

"There was a second dragon?" Tandir asked, knowing full-well that there hadn't been.

"One's not enough?" the young man asked back.

"It was apparently enough for you," Tandir said, looking the man up and down. He was thin and pale, as were most of the Northerners, his hair was a dark blue color, almost purple, and his eyes were black. His clothes had clearly been fine earlier in the day, but now they were soiled and torn. Similarly, if his shield had ever had an emblem, it was long gone now, as was the sword that should have been in the man's scabbard.

"I could have finished it," said the young man—although, now that Tandir looked at him up-close, the man couldn't have been that much younger than Tandir himself, although his height made him appear even younger. "But now I'm stuck here, wounded and needing to look after you."

Tandir shrugged. "At least you don't have to worry about the dragon," he said, "I killed it."

The other man's jaw slowly fell open. "How did you-?"

"Fire-dragons aren't cut out for fighting in the cold." Tandir looked around. "Where's your sword?" he asked.

"Melted," muttered the other.

Alerted, Tandir could see it blackened to the hilt and twisted into an impossible shape. He walked over to the rubble and kicked at it. "I'm impressed it kept so much of its shape," he said; dragon fire was hot enough to melt anything not forged at the royal Firerealm forges. "You should be pleased your shield held up so well," he added, coming back to kneel by the young man's side. "Otherwise you'd be just as melted as your sword. Why did you think fighting a fire-dragon by yourself with inferior weapons was a good idea?" he asked, sliding his hands along the young man's leg.

He growled when Tandir reached a painful spot. "It worked against all the others," he said through gritted teeth.

"Definitely broken," Tandir said, sitting back on his heels. He didn't know much about healing ice-people, but all the rumors said that trying fire-healing on them usually did more damage than good, due to their tendency to melt at high temperatures. "Young dragons heat up as they grow older; your sword worked against others of this brood because they weren't as mature, but it's sheer stupidity to go after a two-year-old dragon with only Northern steel for a weapon."

"Thanks," said the young man. "I'll remember that next time."

Tandir nodded. "See that you do," he said. Then he held out his hand in greeting. "Prince Tandir of the Firerealm," he said, "pleased to save your hide."

The other young man shook his hand with a wry smile. "Prince Yuki of the Icerealm," he said, "pleased to have been saved. Now, if you could but help me up this sheer cliff face, my pack and first aid kit are there and we can bandage my leg and get back to the castle."

In the end Tandir had to climb the cliff and bring the pack to Prince Yuki. Tandir then had to secure ropes while the Ice-Prince bandaged his leg, and then help haul him up to the top of the ravine. It was slow going, and nearly dark by the time they were finished.

"Guess we're spending the night here," Yuki said, looking at the wind-swept landscape.

"We'd best spend it by the dragon's corpse then," Tandir said, "it'll keep away anything big, and I need to burn it in the morning anyway. It'll keep us warm until then."

A short time later saw them snuggled against the side of the dragon, sharing their blankets to share their heat as well. "What brings a southern prince to the north?" Yuki asked.

"Father heard about the fire-dragons and sent me to help," Tandir said. "Although I'm only one man, and thus am not sure how much I can do. Perhaps I can convince him to send weapons."

"Perhaps," Yuki said, snuggling closer, "but it seems like you've already helped quite a lot. I don't know how I'll ever thank you for saving my life."

"Money is always a good reward," Tandir muttered into the other prince's hair.

"I was thinking something else," Yuki said, shifting until he could put his hand on Tandir's leg, sliding higher as he tipped his head back for a kiss.

Tandir caught his hand and held it, but bent down for the kiss willingly enough. "Perhaps when you're healed," he said as he pressed their lips together. Yuki's lips were cold, but not unnaturally so, and the two stayed that way for a long time, exploring each other's mouths until the exertions of fighting a dragon caught up with them both and they settled into sleep.