The echoing laughter was unsettling as the frigid creature ambled out of the small manor. He was tall and lean. His arms were long and his fingers tipped with razor-like metal fingernails. He scraped them against the walls as he moved. Stringy black hair fell forward into his pale-blue face, but his maniacal grin was still visible.
What was a Mahaha doing here? I thought. This was my uncle’s sanctuary, once providing refuge to my sister, nephews, cousins, and me.
I leaned into my ice daggers, growing them longer. I wasn’t skilled with long weapons, but I would need to keep my distance from those nails. If they had scratched through titanium, they would easily slice through my ice.
The Mahaha’s maniacal laughter echoed in the frigid air around me. He pointed his spindly fingers and made the come here gesture. “Come,” he said.
I stared back at the Mahaha as I gripped my ice swords tight, trying to figure out how to best it. These demons weren’t all that intelligent. Mortals often tricked them by making them fall into open water. Being a demon of cold and ice, it wouldn’t cause any lasting damage unless it drowned, but it distracted them and allowed the human to run away.
This one just ambled toward me, beckoning me to come closer. I stepped back, turning my head to look at the closed gate to the north that led to the frozen ravine. If I could get him into the water, I could trap him and force him back to the Underworld.
I smiled back at him, and he changed to stalking toward me. The terrifying grin was unwavering on his frozen face. His long nails scraped the ground as he hunched forward, his eyes peering through his scraggly hair, focused intently on me. I could sense the two aurae nearby. They had crept back into the compound to take a peek after the Qiqirn had chased them out of their tree.
“Föhn, Chinook,” I whispered, “I need you to melt the ice in the ravine.” They hesitated, but only for a moment, before racing toward the north gate. I couldn’t take my concentrated cold away, but if they could warm the ice and make it breakable, I might be able to get the Mahaha to fall through.
The air shifted as the Mahaha swung. I raised my ice sword to meet his blow. A clash of ice and metal rang across the clearing as I pushed him back, his laughter piercing against my ears. This demon was much stronger than his sinewy appearance would let on. He swung again, left arm sweeping wide. He followed with a fast jab from the right, and I felt a tickle against my arm. Shit. I felt the chilled ichor in my veins rise up and drip out. The white-gold specks fell into the pure white snow, glistening in the blue glow.
The Mahaha’s blank white eyes opened wide. “An immortal.” It cackled, the sound like nails across a chalkboard, piercing and taunting. I felt the smile force its way to my lips, mimicking the expression on his contorted face. Mahaha tortured their victims by tickling them. At least it felt like tickling. Their razor-sharp nails were coated in a substance that, once in your blood, would numb your nerve endings and make you feel euphoric. You would die smiling, giddy, and happy, laughing as they sliced you to ribbons.
I gritted my teeth, but the laughter snuck past, and the grip on my sword loosened. The smile on his face grew inhumanly wider, and he laughed at me and swung again. My sword shattered with the force of the blow, and I stumbled backward. I struggled to fight him, even as my laughter echoed with his. I glanced at the north gate and saw that the two aurae had left it open and were thinning the ice on the ravine. I needed to get the Mahaha out there before I was a giggling pile of snow on the ground.
He swung both his arms, and I caught them with my last sword. I slung him away and slashed a cut into his shoulder before running toward the gate. I stopped as I doubled over in laughter, the two aurae staring at me, their wild green eyes flashing with concern. “Keep melting the ice,” I gasped through my forced smile.
I heard his footsteps and scraping nails as he followed me, rubbing the black blood seeping from the cut. He raised his arms to swing again. I parried his strike, my sword meeting his blows as I took a step back toward the gate. He chipped away the icy edges and finally shattered the ice sword. I quickly reached into my white silk headband and pulled on the attached snowflake ornament. The hidden iron dagger flew quickly from my fingertips and lodged in his chest, just above his clavicle. He screamed, and the evil grin turned downward for the first time.
I raced to get to the gate, and the Mahaha swept his bare foot out. It collided with my shin, and I fell forward. There was a sharp sting as his fingertips sliced through my back. I hit the ground, the tickling sensation overwhelming my senses. I tried to grow a layer of frost, but the effect was immediate. Laughter bubbled out of my chest, a forced grin now plastered on my face as I pushed myself up.
I flicked my wrist and flung some icicles at him, my powers feeling low from the exertion. It wasn’t very effective, but it kept his attention on me. I stepped out onto the thin ice as he followed me, swinging wildly. I dodged the ones I could, but every time he sliced my skin, I exploded into a fit of laughter. My eyes were watering, and I doubled over to clutch my stomach.
He came close to me then, and when he missed his last swipe, I grabbed his wrists and held them together, stopping him from swinging again.
“Melt the ice!” I shouted at the girls.
“But you’ll go in with him,” Chinook cried out.
“Just do it!”
Föhn and Chinook concentrated, heating the ice, and I heard it finally crack. I held the Mahaha’s wrists steady, his nails pointed down, and encased his hands in ice, letting it flow down the length of his fingernails. I reached into my cloak pocket and pulled out the titanium harddrive, smashing it against his now brittle fingers. His scream rang in my ears as his fingers broke off, bouncing on the ice below us with a metallic clang.
I felt the shift in the ice as it gave, my maniacal grin matching his as we plunged feet first into the icy ravine. The cold water stung my open wounds, and I gasped, swallowing the icy water.
“Khione!” the aurae shouted, but the current swept me under the ice and out into the lake. The ice above me was thicker than the ravine, and having used so much of my power, I had a hard time manipulating it. The Mahaha’s hands were still frozen together as he tried to swim upwards. Another fit of laughter burst out, forcing the air from my lungs. I coughed as we both choked, the water filling our lungs. The Mahaha latched onto my leg with his bound hands, dragging me down with him to the bottom of the lake.
I struggled to hold onto my consciousness, and the Mahaha stilled and stopped breathing. A portal opened beneath us, and we sank into icy oblivion.
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