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Beast of the Ice

The water is quiet.

Even at midday when the golden sun highlights every darkened corner. The rippling surface sparkles, refractions leaving black spots in your vision if you dared to stare to long.

The water is quiet, and so very cold. This far north the air leaves crystals in your lungs, turns your breath to puffs of smoke, the unrelenting chill standing tall before the heat of a star.

This far north, these waters are left alone, for the stories told by the locals are enough to send even the bravest of explorers running, fleeing a sight that will haunt their nights to come.

The Beast of the Ice. (So affectionately named by the locals, and the half-mad broken men who survived the attacks.)

A massive god of the dark frigid water, ever moving swiftly and quietly, never a ripple out of place. A feat executed far too easily for something so vast, so massive many minds have broken at the mere sight of it. A creature that leaves metal shells of ships and underwater subs crushed and torn in ways that make the most hardened of sailors tremble in their boots.

So it is with minor surprise, that the only one who dares to paddle along the dark water without fear is not an explorer, or a fame-seeking young man, nor a sea-hardened sailor or soldier. It is simply a singular old man.

He does not hold an impressive figure, nor does he cast a shadow over the endless youth who traverse the shores of his home. He does not seek out danger or self-worth or profit. He does not bare scars that tell incredible stories, does not take weapons. He is an average man, of average height, with enough muscle to make the trip seem easy, enough callouses on his hands to seem capable.

His is a face worn by the harsh sun and filled with laugh lines. A man who has lived a good and simple life. Who is kind to strangers and entertains and smiles so sweetly at children. His eyes are warm and hold no fear, no doubt as he sets his little boat out to water. Alone, save for a small bucket of fish and a well-worn harmonica.

As the sun rises, as it had every day for the past three decades, the man slows his boat, puffing beneath his scarf. He rubs his hands together, then stands, knees wobbling almost as much as his boat, and taking the bucket, he dumps the fish into the water.

As the offering settles into the dark depths, he removes his gloves, takes out his harmonica, and plays.

He plays the same tune he always plays, eyes falling shut as he gently rocks back and forth in his little haven, the frigid wind ruffling his silver hair, settling crystals in his beard.

He plays sweetly, a song of longing. Of peace and quiet and home.

And only when the water shifts, ice crackling against itself, does he stop. Shifting to look over the edge he smiles, as he always does, at the massive gleaming crimson and silver scales flecked with gold.

Huffing behind his scarf, eyes crinkling, he reaches out just as a fin breaks the surface. He glides his trembling fingers across as the Beast passes, knowing his touch is barely a breath to the behemoth.

The waters swirls, twisting his boat as he clings to the sides, barking laughter falling from cracked lips. The man shakes his head, toes curling as the Beast sings; the tune he just played mirrored back at him tenfold, deep and long, the ethereal voice echoing in his soul.

He closes his eyes, and listens to the sound of home. Rocking in his little boat as the sun rise behind him.

Later, he will grin, sounding back once more on his instrument before reclaiming his gloves and beginning the long trek back to shore. Crimson and silver following beneath for as long as possible.

When asked how he managed this feat, he would stop, stare the asker right in the eye, and say;

“Those who do not disturb the broken and frightening, who pay them the curtesy you so desire in return, will not be disturbed in return. Be kind, be considerate, be not afraid, and the dark will part for you as if you were its own.”

Yes, the Beast of the Ice is cruel, it has killed and will kill to keep itself safe. It devours what falls into the dark depths it calls home, unwilling to waste fresh meat. What else would one expect of a creature defending it’s home?

So, the old man holds no fear, for he knows the Beast, knows the creature like a friend. He knows he will be free to pass, for he does not bother the old soul, lingering only long enough to say hello and offer up small gifts of peace.

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