a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

prompt fic: Frost Fiend Dreams

ğŸŽ² Write a 1000 word story in the fantasy genre. It's about an ice cream addict and should include a leaderboard. Also use the sentence 'How do you take it?' Bonus prompt: The story takes place in a desert.

A dark cloud floated leisurely past the sun. I didn't care whether it would deign to give up a few drops; it dimmed the midday sky enough to dull the throbbing ache around my temples. In another life, I might've sobbed with gratitude.

"How do you take it?" The gruff voice of the sweetmonger snapped me out of my reverie.

I squinted at him. "Huh?"

"Nuts, fudge, fairy dust, crumbles, honey, bloodberry sauce, whaddaya want?"

"Oh." I shook my head. "Just the cream." The man snorted. Fiend, his expression said, but he bit his tongue. "Two pfennigs."

I slapped a quippen on the rough-hewn dunwood cart. "Keep the remainder," I said cooly. His face slackened into something resembling camaraderie. Only a sad sack 'til they see the coin, I thought. He opened his magic coldbox and I saw the strange ruddy smoke pour out. It glinted with tiny crystals that fizzled as they were exposed to the hot air. How I wished I could know how the magic works.

He dug a fist-sized scoop of frostcream into a tin cup, not bothering to skim off the heaping, and handed it to me along with a little wooden paddle. "Many thanks for the coin, sib." I nodded. Each nerve in my meaty body screamed at me to toss aside the paddle, dig my grubby paws into the cold ambrosial lump and suck it down my gullet in one or two sloppy gulps. I swallowed hard. That's not behavior befitting the star clubber of the Zellingard Stompers.

I dug my heels into the sides of Butterbell, my trusty drom, and led her over to the watering trough. She snorted. She wasn't in need of watering, but I wanted to dine away from the others. I paddled a dollop of cream out of the cup. I placed it in my mouth. Then another. Then, too quickly, another. The sun, from which the cloud had woefully departed, no longer felt like the scorching blast of a furnace but the warm embrace of a lover. The polo mallet strapped to my back wasn't a burden, but the arm of an old comrade. The drom dung smelled like the rarest and most exquisite of desert spices. The white of my eyes darkened and the brown of my iris lightened to give my eyes a golden cast, the sure sign of a frost fiend. I closed them. I could hear one of my rivals snickering at me. But in my icy sweet dream, I heard only the crowd cheering me on.

The sun was at mid-eve, still enough daylight to see the field, but low enough to draw the crowd out of their cool mosstone homes. It was the Stompers' first away game in Yara, and I admired the natural viridian grass of their polo field; it must've cost a Duke's ransom in water rations to keep it that pristine.

Fifteen minutes til game time. The thaumescent lines painted on the field were starting to glow in the evening dim. The Yarfolk excitedly filed into the stands. It looked to be a packed house. The Strikers were a good team. One of the best. I glanced at the leaderboard. The Stompers were at number 3, just behind the Strikers, and tonight's match would determine who would take on the Guitarbor Shredders for the cup. If the Stompers lost, we'd be booted to the gutter league until next season. Number three is a respectable finish, better than the Stompers had done before I signed on, but I wanted to be the clubber that gave them their first cup.

"Eyes are looking a little cloudy tonight, Esper," a voice called. It was Ysmind, the Strikers' goalkeeper. I knew she was bluffing; I had used the eyedrops I got from old Harald, the finest apothecary in Zellingard. But as the effect of the frostcream waned, so too did my confidence. I smirked, trying not to let it show.

"Already making excuses, Ysmind? At least have the dignity to take an honest beating."

"It's against regulations to take cream before a match, Esper. I oughta report you."

I trotted Butterbell over to get closer and scowled. "It's been six hours, Ysmind, or have you forgotten how to read? I could quote you the whole chapter if you like."

Ysmind grinned. "Awfully familiar with the dosing regulations, Esper. But I suppose a fiend would know best." She turned to join her lackeys, laughing. My face blanched. For a brute, she knew how to prod my tender spots with watchmaker precision.

I felt an arm on mine and nearly fell off my drom. But it was only Brinty, our rear guard. "You ok, Esper? I hope you didn't let that twit get to you."

Was it that obvious? Gods, how I wished I had some more cream. "Nah, I won't be needled by her kind," I said, my voice breaking only a bit. I coughed. Brinty nodded and slapped me on the shoulder.

"It's desperation," she said. "A sign of weakness. They wouldn't have to play mind games if they knew a dromshoe from a dungheap."

I knew she was right, but I was rattled. The way Ysmind had so casually thrown out the curse, "fiend", sent shivers down my spine. I took a deep breath through my nose. The whistle shrieked. Five minute warning. "Watch my back tonight, Brinty." She laughed and punched me in the shoulder. "That's my job, stupid."

The game was going poorly, but wasn't a disaster. The Stompers were down by three goals, but Ysmind had been hit by a wild ricochet that sent her to the medic tent. I take no satisfaction in seeing a fellow polie get hurt, but for her I was willing to make an exception. Talk muck, get struck. With a less experienced goaltender taking her place, I knew we could catch up.

My clubbing was fine, but something was off that night. My vision kept going all blurry, and I'd have to use my free arm to wipe dampness from my eyes, throwing me off-balance. I cursed the dry desert air, and wondered if sand was blowing in from some nearby storm, but no one else seemed to be struggling.

I had managed to take one goal in spite of my impaired vision, and Jarrod two, tying the game. Jarrod and Brinty trotted up to me during the recess before the final quintile.

"Are you doing okay, Esper? You're not looking so hot." I shrugged. "Maybe you should head to the baths," Brinty added pointedly.

"Huh?" She lifted her helmet and pointed just below her eyes. I wiped my face once more, and noticed my sweat had a strange golden shimmer. "What in the world?" I said, mortified, but I didn't have time to mull it over. The whistle shrieked, and we took our positions. It was our turn on offense.

The wind blew into my face. My vision blurred and my eyes leaked. The ball became a fuzzy little yellow gremlin that seemed to be in three places at once. I tried to dribble it, steer Butterbell and wipe the (sweat? tears?) from my eyes all at once. One of the Strikers' guards deftly swept their mallet and took control of the ball. I groaned. I wrestled with the reins, steering Butterbell the other direction in a vain attempt at recovery. In less than a quarter field, they'd be at our goal. I closed the distance between us and swung my mallet wildly.

Butterbell let out a dreadful gutteral whinny as her legs got tangled up in the length of the mallet. The handle was snatched out of my hands and the two of us tumbled, head-over-hoof, into a messy pile around the 15 meter mark.

I heard an old man laughing a craven, wheezy chuckle. I wiped my eyes looked up into the stands. It was old Harald, the apothecary. What was he doing here? That geezer had no interest in sport, and he would certainly never travel all the way to Yara just to watch a game. The whistle shrieked to mark the Strikers scoring the game-winning point. Harald stood and cheered, throwing his fists into the air with delight. From his belt hung quite a sizable coin purse. I could tell from the mottled purple texture it was made of the finest Yaran gourd-leather.

I closed my eyes and lowered my face into the grass. I wished I had some cream. Butterbell, the hardy beast no worse for the wear, trotted over to comfort me. I turned to lie on my back. She started nuzzling me and licking my face. I looked up at her, grateful for my trusty drom. She had a strange look in her eye.