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Akta’s Ice Headache
Greetings, my fellow fiction aficionados!
Today, I’m very excited to present you to the first in our series of short story fiction here on. is a USA Today bestselling author (with over 40 novels published 🤯) and the creator of the brilliant The Author Stack Substack, where his mission is to give authors agency in a world that too often seems intent on stripping it away from them.
Here, he shares a short story set within his wider Godsverse Chronicles fantasy series. With mythological gods and action-adventure tendencies, the series is fast-paced, full of plot twists, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Russell has very kindly offered a free 30-day membership toto readers of BTMU, so you can continue reading the Godsverse Chronicles after you’ve read Pixie Dust.
“Where are you going?” Akta shouted at Sir Cleybourne as he made his way down the long hallway past King Odgeir’s throne room, toward the castle’s massive wooden doors. He hadn’t worn full battle regalia in many years, and his breast plate slid down his thin frame.
“To the front lines!” he replied.
Around them, the castle walls shook and shuddered. Akta flittered her wings until she was in front of him and dug her thick boots into the ground. She’d learned long ago that she needed big boots to weigh her to the ground and give her the leverage to stop monsters much bigger than Sir Cleybourne. “You’re not going anywhere!”
Sir Cleybourne flung his arm toward the nearest window. Outside, a sixty-foot-high frost giant rampaged through the town. “We’ve already lost half of our best knights fighting this thing and have gotten nowhere. They need me!”
“No, they don’t! They’re all gonna die anyway! Let them die without you!”
Sir Cleybourne pushed past Akta. “If that’s the way you feel about it, then I’ve taught you terribly.”
From the time she was a little girl, Sir Cleybourne had taught Akta everything she knew about fighting. He was once the greatest knight in King Odgeir’s army, but time was a battle no knight could beat, and eventually he slowed with age.
Few knights made it to old age, and so those that did were revered. The King made Sir Cleybourne the High Guard of the Kingdom, and appointed him to train monster hunters and knights alike. Akta was his most challenging task to date.
Not just because she was stubborn, either, but because she was a pixie, which meant she could fly and disappear at will. No other knight had that power, and that made training her difficult. Still, Sir Cleybourne drilled into her head all he knew, and Akta became a great monster hunter far surpassing even Sir Cleybourne’s skill.
She had captured the great Dragon of Abanzta and returned its riches to her kingdom. She had fought off the blubbering blob of Ringa and saved King Odgeir’s prized iron mines. When there was a monster no other knight could defeat, the kingdom turned to Atka.
And yet Sir Cleybourne treated her like a child.
“Let me go instead. I can fight, Cley!” Akta shouted after her teacher.
“You fulfilled your mission admirably. Every man, woman, and child we could find is safe within the castle keep. You should be very proud.” He slowed for a moment and looked over his shoulder. “This is not your mission.”
“I’m glad the people are safe, but I can still be useful to you!”
Two guards swung open the castle door and Sir Cleybourne strutted outside, where a hundred knights and cavalrymen flanked either side of his horse. “You are to stay in the castle and protect the king. That is an order. Do you understand?”
Akta nodded begrudgingly. “Yes, sir.”
Sir Cleybourne hurled his foot over the horse’s saddle and rose atop his steed. He once looked like a proud knight riding into battle, but now he looked like an enfeebled fool, and Akta knew deep in her bones he galloped to his death.
“I wish you good stead, knights,” Akta said, nodding slightly to them.
Sir Cleybourne cracked a slight smile and nodded back. “Until our return. Heya!” He dug his heels into the horse and it dashed forward. The King’s banners rode next, followed by row after row of glittering knights, riding off to their doom.
Akta turned back to the castle, the sound of arrows twanging from the top of the keep following her. Their arrows would do nothing, nor would the cavalry. Akta posted up at the closest window and watched as Sir Cleybourne galloped through the winding streets of the town toward his fate.
“I can take care of myself, you know,” King Odgeir said, walking up to her.
“Yes, my prince.” Akta caught herself. “Sorry—your grace.”
King Odgeir smiled. “You don’t have to apologize to me, Akta.”
King Odgeir the First had died peacefully in his sleep three years before. He had been like a father to Akta. He found her when she was a baby, discarded and left for dead, and took her in to raise as his own, despite her being a monster, and different in every way possible.
Akta was a pixie, which meant she came complete with wings and hollow bones like a bird; it also meant darker skin and a higher voice than anybody she knew. Nobody in town or anywhere in the surrounding countryside looked like her, but that didn’t matter to the King. He treated her every bit as well as the crowned prince, which made her love him all the more.
It also created a special bond between King Odgeir the Second and Akta. The two of them were as much family as she was a subject to her lord. The moment he put on the gold crown and picked up the scepter, many things changed, but nothing ever weakened their bond. She could no longer joke with him as she once did, and they didn’t spend lazy days walking through the pastures anymore, but there was still respect, admiration, and a deep love between them.
“I don’t want them to die,” King Odgeir said. “I hope you know that.”
Akta bowed her head. “I know, my king.”
The castle shook again as the ice giant slammed his fist on the ground and took out a dozen knights charging at it.
“I fear it may look as such, as I sent them out there when we have no hope of winning.”
Akta choked back tears. “No, my king. It does not look as such.”
“Even now, my keep shakes and my people cry in fright. Those knights are the last in the kingdom. My reserve. They are old and feeble, knock-kneed and frightened. My best men, they’ve all died already, or have been wounded beyond repair.”
“Then why fight?”
“Because without those men, my people will be lost. They will surely all die. My hope is that whatever time those knights buy is enough for us to come up with a plan.”
“Then let me help buy them time. Don’t keep me here. Let me do what I’m best at. Let me fight, and die, for you.”
The king raised an eyebrow. “Sir Cleybourne specifically asked—”
“Screw him! You are the king. Are you going to listen to a doddering old buffoon over your adopted sister?”
King Odgeir breathed deeply. “It is specifically because of my love for you that I don’t want you to go.”
“What is my life, compared to the life of all your people, my king?”
King Odgeir turned away. Tears swelled in his eyes and he didn’t want Akta to see them. “Go, if you must.”
“Thank you, my king.”
Akta burst out the front doors to the Castle and soared into the sky. One of the advantages of being a pixie was that she could fly as high or low as she wanted, at speeds no mortal could reach. Another advantage was a neverending supply of pixie dust, a magical powder that allowed her to appear and disappear at will.
She wouldn’t deny that between the dust and her wings she had an unfair advantage over the rest of the monster hunters in the kingdom, but she didn’t care. She used everything in her arsenal in every battle. In some fights that meant relying on her prowess with daggers, in others it meant her agile footwork, and still other fights forced her to use her magical abilities to her advantage. She would be a fool not to use every opportunity to gain the upper hand.
Akta tossed a handful of pixie dust into the air and vanished as the arrows shot around her. She reappeared in the face of the giant, right between its eyes.
“Hi!” She shouted to it.
The monster crossed its eyes to see the tiny pixie. It raised its arm and swiped at her, but she disappeared again into a cloud of pink and purple smoke, reappearing at the giant’s ear.
“It’s not very polite to hit people,” her voice echoing inside its cavernous ear canal. The giant swatted at its ear, and Akta evaporated into thin air as knights attacked its great foot. That’s when the giant rose up in a fury and crashed its leg onto a squad of knights, smashing them into the ground as the remaining garrison jumped for cover.
“I can’t stand for this,” Akta said.
She pulled out her daggers and dug them deep into the giant’s neck. It screamed out in pain and smashed its hand down toward Akta, who disappeared at the last moment. When she materialized on the other side of its neck, she dug in her daggers again. Like a wasp, she needled in her weapons repeatedly until the monster recoiled backward.
“It’s retreating!” Sir Cleybourne shouted. “Attack!”
No, you stupid fool, Akta thought. Head back to the castle!
But it was too late, the last of the garrison charged at full speed, brandishing their weapons like ants upon the great giant. Their attacks would do nothing, and Akta could not hope to defeat the giant, either. Everything they did was a stall tactic.
“Stop!” Akta zipped down to the ground and placed herself between the charging men and the giant. “You’re all going to die!”
“Back away, you fool!” Sir Cleybourne shouted back. “You are hindering our advance. We have the upper hand now!”
“Your advance will do nothing but lead to your deaths. Don’t you know that?”
“An honorable death is nothing to fear!”
“What about a foolhardy one?”
Akta and Sir Cleybourne argued so intensely they didn’t notice the giant’s foot rise up again or the other the knights jumping out of the way. It wasn’t until the last second that Akta saw the foot’s shadow fall on Sir Cleybourne’s face. Instinctively she jumped away, leaving her teacher to bear the brunt of the attack.
A moment later, the foot lifted. Akta shot forward, gathered Sir Cleybourne into her arms, and flew them to a desolate corner of the city.
“Cley! Cley! Cley! Don’t be dead. Please...please.”
Sir Cleybourne looked up at her and smiled. Blood trickled out of the sides of his mouth as he struggled to breath. “Do you know what I remember, at the end?”
“This isn’t the end. It’s not the end.” Akta rocked him gently and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I remember our first hunt, when you saved me from that troll in the woods. Do you remember how you kicked over that fiery pot into its face and scalded him good?”
Akta cried and cried. “I remember.”
“I very much liked that. Giants really hate fire, don’t they?”
The life faded from Sir Cleybourne’s eyes until he stared blankly into the great abyss and his arms fell limp on the ground. Akta pressed her head against the old knight’s chest and cried until the ground shook from the giant’s foot. She looked up to see the frost giant advancing on the castle. There wasn’t time to grieve.
Sir Cleybourne’s last words gave Akta an idea. Frost…Ice…Fire. Of course, fire melts ice. She bet that ice giants hated fire as much as trolls did and she could use it to drive the monster out of town. Perhaps she could even melt the giant! Why had they not thought of it before?
First, she had to distract the monster. Akta gritted her teeth and picked up Sir Cleybourne’s sword. He would not die in vain. Akta disappeared into the ether and reemerged right in the monster’s face. She turned the sword over and flung it into one of its gigantic eyeballs, temporarily blinding it. Both arms flung up to its face as it tried to pull out the sword.
Akta soared through the town until she found a blacksmith shop with a roaring fire. She grabbed some loose rags from a nearby bench, lit them ablaze, then flew back to where the monster was still digging at its eyes in pain. “I hope this works,” she muttered to herself.
Akta dropped the flaming rags upon the giant’s arm. The fire melted into the frozen limb and water dripped down onto the ground. The frost giant cried out to the heavens until the water from its wound quelled the fire.
“That’s it!” Akta shouted.
Akta flew back to the archers in the castle. “Everybody, douse your arrows in kerosene and tar. Light them on fire before you shoot them!”
“That’s crazy,” said Frederick, captain of the guard, through his comically bushy mustache. “We’ll burn down the whole city!”
“Of course it’s crazy!” Akta said. “This is all crazy, but any minute now, that monster is going to be at our gate, so we can try something or do nothing. Your choice.”
Frederick thought for a moment. “I will find a light.”
Akta disappeared, and a second later she was inside the castle. Quakes rocked the walls as King Odgeir sat on his throne, nervously stroking his long beard. He looked regal even in darkest moments, and this was surely the darkest his kingdom ever experienced.
“I have a plan, good king,” Akta said.
“I won’t like it, will I?” King Odgeir smiled.
She shook her head. “It will destroy the town, but save its people.”
King Odgeir weighed this. “How certain are you it will work?”
“It’s risky, but I do believe it is our best chance. The knights, including Sir Cleybourne, are dead. The archers have proven ineffective. This is our last effort. If it fails, we will all be doomed.”
King Odgeir looked up at Akta. There was a weariness there she had not noticed before. “Do what must be done to save my people.”
Akta nodded and flitted away, then rematerialized on top of the castle. Dozens of archers lugged kerosene and tar across the rooftop between stations. They doused their arrows in the fuel and lit them with great torches before letting them loose into the air.
“I need to borrow this,” Akta said, disappearing with a clay jar full of kerosene.
Akta reappeared on the battlefield in front of the giant. It had finally pulled the sword out of its eye and now lumbered toward the castle with nothing to stop it. The flaming arrows that fell on its icy skin were little more than a nuisance. Each arrow burned for a moment, and melted a small piece of the giant, but the barrage could never stop it in time.
Only lighting the town on fire could do that.
Akta took a deep breath and floated into the air. She tilted the kerosene jar and drenched the houses with it, creating a circle around the great beast.
She disappeared again and threw the last of the kerosene into the blacksmith’s fire. She lit dozens of rags on fire and flew upwards with them, dropping them on the thatched houses below her.
The houses caught flame almost immediately, and soon the fire raged around the giant, while fire continued to rain down from the archers. The entire town went up in flames, with the giant caught in the middle. Within moments, the ice monster began to melt.
Akta disappeared to the castle and reemerged with more kerosene to keep the fire raging. Everywhere the giant stepped, an immense fire consumed it, until all that remained of the once great giant was a river of water to wash away the fire.
The arrows from the castle stopped, and Akta surveyed her damage. She had destroyed the entire town, and cremated Sir Cleybourne and the rest of the soldiers that died valiantly in battle, but she was alive and so were the townspeople. She had saved the day. She had saved everybody.
Now, she would help them rebuild a better town from the ashes. From that moment on, Akta was a legend. At eighteen years old, she would go on to fight a hundred more battles before her untimely death at twenty-seven, but this is the only that would become song and lore for all eternity.
If you liked this short story, make sure to pick up the Pixie Dust graphic novel.
Russell Nohelty is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author who has written dozens of novels and graphic novels including The Godsverse Chronicles, The Obsidian Spindle Saga, and Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and dogs. If you enjoyed this story, then you can read over a dozen of his novels by signing up for a trial membership of his Substack at authorstack.substack.com.
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