Sun Anne-Wen tapped her staff to life against the ancient and abandoned stonework, drenching the area in a light as bright as it was cold. Each breath froze in the air as she moved, and the chill was enough to cut through her carefully prepared outfit as if it were nothing.

Such was the power of the phantom snow; it was a cold not of the body but of the mind.

Indeed, Anne-Wen was able to move through the knee-high drifts without difficulty, as if they weren’t there at all. Her parka kept the real cold of the place at bay, but it was only a matter of hours–perhaps less–before the warmth was sucked from her soul and she lay down to let the elements claim her. It didn’t happen much anymore, not since the Ru-Alim academicians had puzzled out the nature of the phantom snows that had sent Anne-Wen’s ancestors fleeing from the very halls she now walked.

Emerging into a great rotunda, Anne-Wen knew that she had arrived in the place Smith Ling-Harold’s notes had described. The upper portions had collapsed, spilling masonry and stone columns into the broad arcade below, and a ring of statues honoring distinguished men and women long forgotten (except by the most obscure and learned of the Ru-Alim academicians) maintained a lonely vigil over the choking phantom snow.

But in the middle of the chamber…Anne-Wen had to pass her hand through it in disbelief. Lit by a beam of cold sunlight and sprouting impossibly from an outcrop of solid rock forced through the floor by one of the great old earthquakes…

A single, luminous flower.

Inspired by this.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!