Chapter 11: Destination: Tundra of Terror
The next morning, they left Nik’s fortress with a band of fifty Chrysaur soldiers to accompany them on their journey. Justin thought it was sweet of the Chrysaur people to give them food and supplies that needed replenishing. Kyrie made Lyssa and one hundred of their fairy soldiers human sized as the other fairies stayed behind. They had three caravan wagons and two hundred horses that were borrowed from neighboring villages that didn’t want to join the revolution, but lent their silent support. Justin had never ridden a horse before, so he rode along with Lyon who kept muttering to himself.
“Lyon, are you alright?” he asked him in a soft voice so the others couldn’t hear. Lyon looked back at Justin with a frown.
“Of course I am fine,” he replied tersely. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, it’s just that…” Justin trailed off and thought about the glare that Lyon gave the golden guy. What was his name again? Oh yeah, Nik. It made him wonder just what Lyon’s feelings were for-
“What, it is just what?” Lyon quickly asked with a glare, daring him to continue.
“Nothing, it’s nothing.” Justin sighed and, as Lyon faced front once more, viewed their surroundings. He was glad to be free of the Plains of Desolation, but the vast emptiness of the terrain was sad to watch. There were no creatures frolicking around or birds filling the sky. The complete silence was weighty on everyone as they all seemed to keep to themselves. Justin saw how well Lalana rode on her horse and wished he was riding with her. They rode on during the daylight hours before Nik halted everyone to take a break.
“We will continue on in the morning,” he stated as they all dismounted. “We need to conserve as much energy as we can.” The others nodded in agreement and camp was set up. Justin erected his tent and slid his pallet inside. Afterwards, he went in search of Lalana and found her sitting near her tent with her eyes closed. He watched her for a while, drinking in her beauty.
“It is very impolite to stare.” She opened her eyes and stared at him. Justin sat down next to her.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were asleep.”
“No, just trying to see if I can force a vision to come to me.” Lalana looked at Justin for a moment more before breaking contact. “You must have something to say, so go on and say it.”
“I don’t understand why you can be so cold to me, but then turn around and be nice. Have I done something to make you angry?” Lalana stared off in the distance for a while before sighing and looking at him again.
“I am sorry. It is hard for me to open up about myself to others. I was annoyed with myself than with you, but I have been casting you in the role of blame. The truth is…I like you Justin.” She placed a hand on Justin’s and he gripped it tight.
“So much,” she whispered as she gripped his hand in equal measure.
“I didn’t know that you felt that way about me,” he murmured. “Why didn’t you say?”
“I do not want to like you, which is the truth of it all because you do not belong in this world.” Lalana gently pried her hand from Justin’s and stood. She looked back at him. “My feelings will not go away easily, but I ask that you keep your distance for now.” She walked off to join Brudan at his tent and Justin left to head back to his own. Food was cooked over an open fire and laughter ran free as all shared stories of hilarity.
Justin looked in Lalana’s direction constantly, thinking about her words and the touch of her hand in his. He lifted his hand to stare at it for a moment before lowering it back to his side. He saw Lalana watching him do this, but he pulled his gaze away and chatted with Lyssa. Justin saw how Nik was watching Kyrie, how she tried to ignore his gaze as she chatted with Harmon and how Lyon watched them both. He excused himself as he stood, walking over to where Lyon was sitting. Without waiting to be invited, he sat down next to him.
“You know, I may be young,” Justin began. “But I know when someone likes somebody.” Lyon said nothing as Justin turned to him. “You have feelings for Kyrie.” Without waiting for a reply, he got up and walked over to where Lalana and Brudan were chatting. They both halted their talk to watch his approach.
“I just want you to know that I feel the same,” Justin said, staring into Lalana’s eyes before turning and bidding goodnight to everyone. He headed for his tent and slipped inside.
“What did he mean by that?” Brudan asked Lalana as he stared after Justin.
“Nothing,” she replied with a smile on her face.
Justin slept deep and dreamless, until he felt a hand on his shoulder shaking him awake. He groaned in protest, but opened his eyes to find Brudan frowning down at him.
“It is time to awaken,” he whispered and Justin sat up. “We are leaving before the sun breaks. It is best that way.”
“Why?” Justin began to gather up his belongings and they both exited his tent. He broke that down swiftly, looking at Brudan as he did so.
“Lalana had a vision come to her. Danger walks behind us and is closing in rapidly. We must be gone when it arrives.”
“Fine, I just have to find Lyon because I’m riding with him.”
“The next time we stop, I will teach you how to seat a horse so you can ride on your own.”
“Thank you, I’ll appreciate it.”
“I do not want your thanks. It just sickens me when a male act likes a female.” Brudan stared to walk off, but Justin grabbed his arm to halt his departure.
“What do you mean by that?” he asked and Brudan slowly turned towards him.
“It is just what I said. A real warrior does not need to ride with others. He is able to ride on his own.”
“Wow,” Justin began sarcastically as his blood began to boil. “So I guess if I just got on a horse and broke my neck, I would’ve been honored by you “warriors” right?”
“I only meant that-“
“I mean, never mind that this perfect world of yours would be ruled by evil because me, the chosen one, is dead and wouldn’t be able to save the princess. At least I was able to mount a horse like…a man.”
“There is no need to-“Brudan began but was once again cut off by Justin.
“Riding with another person, like the girl you claim I am, it just makes what I need to accomplish so insignificant doesn’t it? Ah, let the world you know and love come toppling down so long as I know how to ride a horse all on my own, because in the end that’s what truly matters.” Brudan gaped at him as Justin turned and hurried off. He wanted to sock Brudan right in the mouth, the urge to do so rode him greatly and he stopped in shock for a moment. He never had feelings this intense before, what was happening to him? Thoughtful, he strode over to where Lyon was waiting.
“No words.” Lyon frowned down at him as he said this and Justin nodded his agreement. He didn’t feel like talking anyway. He still felt like punching someone and Brudan’s face floated into his mind. Justin shook his head fiercely to clear away the image. They all climbed aboard their mounts and rode off. The ride was hard and fast as Lalana kept a glowing hand up to sense for danger. They rode on through the dawn, when the sun began its rise over the horizon. They continued riding through glare of the sun blazing high in the sky, to the light of the moon hanging in the clouds. Lalana finally gave the all clear signal and, exhausted; they dismounted and set up camp.
Lalana crossed over to where Justin had set up his tent. She sat down, leaned against his side and grabbed onto his hand. She fell asleep instantly and Justin wrapped an arm around her to keep her warm. Kyrie stood near the fire watching the two of them, when she heard a set of footsteps approach her.
“Sweet, is it not?” She asked without turning around to see who it was, she already knew.
“Yes they are. A very special friendship is being bonded between them.” Nik watched as Justin closed his eyes before taking in Kyrie’s profile. “It makes me think about us.”
“I do not think about that time.” Kyrie sent a quick look in Nik’s direction before turning and walking off. Nik followed her to her tent and she sat down gracefully.
“Do you not, Kyrie?” He gazed down into her violet eyes. “You do not let me in anymore. It has been-“
“Five years, I know this.” Kyrie looked at him with a sad smile. “We are not the people we used to be.”
“This I know, we have matured and grown in body and spirit.” Nik stared at her a moment longer before taking a seat. “Come with me, Kyrie.” She tore her gaze from his and looked down towards the ground.
“Where do you wish for us to-“
“You know where,” Nik interrupted before leaning back with his eyes closed. He reached out a hand in her direction. “Come with me Kyrie, you need to remember what we were.” Kyrie stared at him a moment before she reached out a hand towards him. She quickly pulled it back and looked at his profile. She noticed how handsome he was, more than the pretty young boy she once knew.
Taking a bracing breath, Kyrie grasped his hand and closed her eyes tight as she followed Nik into their special between…..
The clouds shifted and parted on the bright golden morning. The sun was shining high in the sky, illuminating the golden world below. It shined on an open golden meadow with beautiful flowers in bright, jeweled tones. Kyrie, magnificent in a shimmering violet gown that matched her eyes, turned about and smiled in wondrous remembrance of a place she hadn’t visited in years. She looked behind her and saw her wings glowing luminously in the golden light.
“It is beautiful is it not?” At the sound of Nik’s voice, Kyrie turned in his direction and watched him approach. Wearing white pants and a gold shirt, he looked like a golden angel.
“Yes it is.” She turned her head to the left and viewed a golden waterfall that fell into a golden pond. She turned back to him with a smile. “It is just as I remember it.”
“This is where we used to play when we were young.” He grabbed one of her hands and walked with her along the dewy golden grass to a swing that was tied around the branch of a golden tree. She sat down upon it as he grabbed a golden fruit from another branch and bit into it.
“Those were really fun times, everything was much happier then.” Nik offered her the fruit and she took a bite, tasting its sweetness.
“This is also where I told you that I love you, and that I will always love you.” Kyrie swallowed the fruit before looking into his eyes.
“Yes,” she replied and viewed her surroundings once more. “This is where I told you I returned your love and always will.” She stood and headed towards a secluded area. The sun shone through the trees whose branches twisted and curved into shapes of hearts. The waterfall could be heard a distance away and she looked down into the pond filled with golden fish. She heard his footsteps, turning to him when he was near. “That was ages ago, Nik. We are not the same people we were then.”
“I do not understand what happened between us,” he stated. “You closed your mind off to me one day and never told me why.” Kyrie sighed deeply as she stared into his golden gaze that was clouded with confusion. “I never knew why you closed yourself from me.”
“To become what I am,” she said softly as she broke off her gaze and looked out over the pond once again. Golden birds flew overhead, trilling out a greeting to the couple as they raced past. “To have my life the way it is now, you could not be a part of it. Do you not see?” She turned to him once more. “All day, almost every single day, I was standing at your side. In your life, in your arms, I was always there. I could not become the being that I am now if I continued on that path. I had to free myself from you.”
“You could not tell me this?” Nik grasped her shoulders as he searched her gaze. “You could not leave a small part of yourself to me so I did not drive myself mad as I did? Do you know how much it tore me apart?”
“Do you not think it did the same to me?” She pulled herself free from his grasp. Stifling a sob, she walked to the edge of the pond and looked down, violet eyes deepening in color. “It is easy to cast the blame and keep none for yourself. You never stopped me, Nik. Not once did you come to Nabo’lan and demand yourself back in my life.”
“You cannot say that to me, I was-“
“Who else can I say them to, if not you?” Her body began to glow golden as she turned back to him. “You did not come for me, you did not fight. It was easy for you to cast me aside.”
“How can you mean that-“
“It was easy for you, admit it,” she shouted as her eyes turned a violet so dark it was nearly black. The power that clung to her struck an arrow of fear into Nik’s heart as he realized how immense it really was. Tears slid down her cheeks and his heart ached to watch them. He decided to reveal what he never wanted to, even to her.
“I was afraid.” He took a few steps towards her and slapped up against her power. The knowledge of her possible rejection caused his heart to well up in his throat. “I was afraid that if I came to you, if I traveled to Nabo’lan to speak with you, you would turn me away.” Nik looked down to fight the tears that wanted to escape from his eyes. Realizing what he was doing, he looked up at her and she gasped as she saw the sheen. “I do not think my heart would have taken your rejection, so I let you go because of my fear. It was not what I wanted, but I thought it was best.”
Kyrie’s eyes returned to their normal color and the glow disappeared from her as she slowly took steps his way.
“I never thought you would ever let me know something like that.” She smiled as she placed her hands on his shoulders. “You were always so manly, always hesitant to reveal fear to anyone.” His arms came about her and she closed her eyes in happiness. “Mayhap we needed this time apart to truly cherish our love for one another.”
“You still-“He pulled back to look at her and she opened her eyes as she grinned.
“Would you like to read my thoughts? They are open to you, have been for some time.” She laughed aloud as he swept her into his arms, spinning her around in joy. He lowered her back to the ground as he lowered his head down to hers. Their kiss was sweet and passionate; it felt like coming home to both of them……
Justin viewed the smiles that spread on Nik and Kyrie’s faces. He looked down at Lalana asleep in his arms and the sweetness of it all warmed his heart. Yawning, he returned back to his slumber…..
The meadow was green and shone like emeralds. Trees bent with the breeze that smelled of jasmine and honeysuckle. Justin felt the warmth on his face and smiled up at the bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.
“What am I doing here?” He heard Lalana’s voice from behind and turned to see her standing next to Brudan. Justin frowned in confusion.
“I welcome her into my dream, but what are you doing here?” Brudan looked over towards him with a glare.
“This is no one’s dream, but someone’s vision,” Kyrie answered and the three of them turned to find her standing next to Nik.
“Who vision this be then?” Harmon asked as he walked over to the group with Lyon and Lyssa at his side. Lyon viewed the arm that Nik had placed around Kyrie’s shoulders and frowned.
“This is my vision. It is so nice to finally meet you all,” a voice said from behind a tree. They all turned in that direction and Agathane stepped out from behind it. “I was eagerly waiting to make your acquaintance, so I decided it should be in a peaceful setting. It is good, is it not?”
“What do you want?” Kyrie motioned for everyone to stand behind her as Agathane slowly approached. Wearing a black dress that trailed two feet behind her, silver hair flowing down her back; Agathane knew she was a beautiful woman. Kyrie dressed in all white outshone her dark beauty and Agathane glared a bit before smiling.
“I want to implore upon you all to end this silly revolution. Turn back and go from whence you all came.” Her dark eyes glanced in Justin’s direction. “It is better for you all if you do so.”
“So yer rule can be unleashed upon us all?” Harmon growled and took a step in her direction. Nik and Lyon grabbed him to keep him still.
“It will not be so bad under my rule. With my laws, all will be equal as they once were. There will just be more freedom.”
“You lie!” Lalana screamed and Agathane glared at the red eye marked on her forehead.
“Just because you can look into the future little one, does not mean it cannot be altered. So your screams fall upon-“
“Enough.” Kyrie looked at Agathane coldly. “We are not turning back, and for you to come to us this way means we strike fear inside of you.”
“That is a lie!”
“We will travel to the Tundra of Terror and we willrescue the princess from your grasp. Your reign of evil is almost at an end.”
“Who do you think you are?” Agathane hissed. Power began to rise from them both and the sky turned gray as the clouds swirled into a cyclone.
“I am the woman who will help bring you to your demise,” Kyrie answered calmly. Agathane raised her hands and shot out a bolt of black lightning towards Kyrie. She deflected with a wave of her arm and sent a golden bolt to Agathane. Agathane sent a shot to dispel Kyrie’s bolt and sparks rained upon them all as the bolts erupted. “Go back to where you lain your body, you are not welcome here anymore.” Kyrie rose up her arms and Agathane did the same.
They absorbed the powers of nature, causing it to lose its natural luster as they leaked out the color and beauty to empower themselves. The group looked around in dismay at how gray everything was becoming as both combatants sucked in the powers of nature and shot it at each other. The powers swirled and tangled, but the group noticed that Kyrie’s magicks were stronger. It began to push back Agathane’s power. Agathane’s eyes flared with outrage, but Kyrie saw a glimpse of fear in them as well.
“This is not over.” Agathane whispered an incantation as Kyrie’s power overcame her. The force of impact blew like a gale over them all and knocked them back into their bodies…….
Justin woke up shivering. His breaths formed in a white mist as he slowly sat up and stood from the ice covered ground. The complete silence engulfed him as he looked around and saw everyone lying in the snow. Wall to wall clouds covered the entire sky as snow fell in thick, white fluffs.
“W…w…wake up, everyone, something happened.” His body racked with chills, he walked over towards Lalana’s lying form and shook her shoulder. Everyone began gasping and groaning themselves awake. They shivered as they glanced about themselves. Snow capped mountains ranged in the distance, while everywhere was snow and ice. No trees or bushes were seen, anywhere at all.
“H…h…how did we end up here?” Lalana asked as she stood and walked over to Justin, leaning against him for warmth. Kyrie stood and closed her eyes as she whispered in fairine. Immediately, they were covered in fur coats, hats and mufflers. Their feet were encased in thick leather boots. Instant warmth surrounded them and they sighed in relief.
“Where are we?” Justin asked as the wind blew against their faces.
“We are in the Tundra of Terror,” Kyrie answered and Justin looked at her, shocked.
“We’re here already? How is that possible?”
“It is possible for one with such power as hers,” a rough voice growled and they turned to look behind them. A giant wolf with black fur and a white underbelly crouched in the snow, light green eyes looking at them. Justin felt fear bloom inside of him as he noticed how big the wolf was. It was the size of a horse.
“Who is this?” Justin asked, a quiver sounding in his voice.
“This is Rendar, King of the wolves,” Kyrie informed him. “It is so good to see you again, Rendar.”
“Despite the circumstances, it is good to see you as well, your highness.” He lowered his mighty head in respect and Kyrie curtsied.
“What brings you here?” Nik asked and Rendar looked in his direction.
“This is my terrain, why would I not be here?”
“I mean, what brings you here to us?”
“I have come to lend aid. The wolves would like to join up in the revolution. I have come to lead you to the Ice Fortress where the princess is held.”
“Um, what makes this the Tundra of Terror?” Everyone looked to Justin as he asked this. “Sorry, it’s been a thought on my mind.” Rendar growled low in his throat as he slowly approached Justin.
“Silence is a being’s worst enemy. The completeness of it can drive a sane man mad. So mad that he will turn on those he loves to try to escape it. And that is why they call this the Tundra of Terror.” Justin stared into those light green eyes. “Satisfied?”
“I’m sorry, I was just curious.” Justin tore his gaze away and Lalana grabbed his hand in silent comfort.
“Why do you think we need your help reaching the Tundra of Terror?” she asked and Justin looked in her direction.
“This is my terrain, I know the quickest way there and you need to know what you will be facing. Medina, ruler of the Gorgons, is at the Ice Fortress with a small army. Looking into her eyes will freeze you in ice forever, so it is best that you do not look into them.” Rendar lifted up his head and howled into the air.
There were answering howls in return and a large pack of wolves emerged from the blinding white.
“You will ride my brethren to get there swiftly. Climb aboard so that we may depart.” They climbed on the wolves and raced off. Justin’s heart was pumping with exhilaration and fear as the wolf he was on ran swiftly through the snow. He reached behind him and grasped the hilt of his sword to make sure it was there. Taking a bracing breath, he decided to watch the terrain that was passing swiftly by. Remembering that it was nothing but mountains, sky and snow, he faced his focus forward once again, feeling the muscles of the wolf bunch and release beneath him.
He glanced around at the group to find Brudan watching him. Justin stared back for a long moment before giving him a saucy wink. He laughed as he watched Brudan gasp and two bright red spots bloomed on his cheeks. Brudan shook his fist in Justin’s direction but he ignored it as he faced front once again.
They finally got close enough to the Ice Fortress to take a look. It towered into the sky, heavy with clouds. The edges looked sharp and forbidding; the whole structure seemed cold. Gated walls surrounded the entire fortress, made of iron and silver. The windows were made of diamond, making it hard to view inside as they dismounted from the wolves.
“What is your plan?” Rendar asked and Kyrie looked at the castle intensely.
“Everyone needs to stay close together. If you stand too far apart, you will be left behind.” They all formed a large circle and Kyrie began to whisper in fairine. Her body glowed white and it circled around the entire group. In a flash they disappeared and passed through the gates of the fortress. They glanced around and noticed how empty the courtyard seemed.
“It be like they are waiting for us,” Harmon said and Lyssa looked in his direction.
“Do you really think so?”
“No, they are not waiting. They are not waiting for a reason. Agathane is so confident that she has no one guarding the gates,” Kyrie said and moved towards the front entrance. The rest started to follow her but she turned to them. “This is something that Justin must do by himself.” She heard Justin gasp and glanced in his direction. “The time has come for you to be brave and face your fears. You must rescue Princess Vissa on your own.”
“Why is he going alone, elder sister?” Brudan frowned at Justin as Lalana stepped closer to him and grabbed his arm. Kyrie explained the reason why but it was lost on Justin as he gazed into Lalana’s eyes.
“Please be careful, Justin.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and Justin closed his about her waist. She caressed his face with hers in a loving nudge before leaning towards his ear. “Come back to me.” Lalana released Justin quickly and rushed over to where Lyssa and Lyon were standing. Blushing, Justin felt Kyrie grab his arm and he looked at her. She shook his arm for good measure to get Justin to focus on what she was trying to say.
“Are you ready to go, Justin?”
“Yes, I…I am ready.” She released him to take a step away as she raised her arm.
“Seno-encarta-invinsi-transforma-magicka.” A beam of white light shot from Kyrie’s hand and hit Justin in the chest. There was a flash of pain and he cried out, feeling fire race along his nerve endings. All watching him saw as he began to shimmer and become transparent. In the brilliant white flash, he disappeared from their sight. Lalana bowed her head and said a small prayer to Orion for his safe return.
Justin entered into a chamber that housed mirrors of all different shapes and sizes. It covered every wall of the chamber and he was confused. He took a moment to look inside a few of the mirrors and what he saw made him gasp in delight.
These are gateways to other realms. I can see whole worlds inside the glass. He yearned to enter one to look around, but remembering why he was there made him step back. Sighing with regret, he turned and left the chamber to enter into a dark hall. Justin noticed that no pictures were about, just more mirrors. Knowing what they contained made him eager to search them, but he denied himself and continued on down the dark hallway.
Walking along, he saw many doors that were shut closed and the ominous sounds he heard from within made him happy not to open them. Justin saw one door was partially opened and he paused, wondering if he should go in. Dragging his feet, he slowly approached the door and peeked inside. Sitting on a longue chair was a cartoon duck and dog. The duck was a rich black and brilliant orange while the dog was a deep brown that looked the color of good maple syrup. The duck was shuffling a deck of cards when he glanced up at Justin. He sent him a wink and a smile, but the hard glint in his eyes made Justin duck back in the hall quickly, his fear coming out in fast pants.
Continuing on, he passed a door that was completely black and Justin had the urge to open it. The urge was so strong he actually placed his hand on the knob.
“No, Justin now is the time to find the princess.” Kyrie’s voice was powerful in his mind; he dropped his hand from the knob and backed away. He faced front again and moved down the darkened hall. The thin, watery light made for dark shadows that seemed to follow Justin as he walked on.
How am I going to find her? I don’t know which way to go. He came to a split in the hallway and cold air whistled down both corridors. Justin knew deep down that if he took the wrong path, he’ll be trapped forever. Tears of frustration welled up, but he blinked them back and took a calming breath. He closed his eyes and opened up his mind a little.
“Vissa, can you hear me? If you can, make a noise and I will come to you.” Justin felt a tug in his mind, like a silver wire hooked itself inside his brain and began to pull at him. The wire was turning his body towards the right path and he knew that she was in this direction. Justin realized then that no one else would have been able to locate Vissa. If they would have tried, they would have been lost in the maze of the Ice Fortress. Maybe someone would have entered into one of its many dark rooms that were filled with even darker intentions. Or, they would have fell down a deep, dark pit with no hope of ever escaping. This small journey to rescue her was meant for Justin. No one else would have found her.
All of a sudden, he heard a dragging footstep behind him. It was accompanied by a raspy breath, then a high pitched giggle. Those three sounds grated the intense silence of the fortress. Drag of the footstep, rasp of an inhale and the high, insane giggle. These sounds turned Justin’s bones to ice and he ran down the right pathway.
Justin loped on, wanting to duck into one of the rooms but knowing he’d be seriously hurt if he did. The dragging footstep on the bare wooden floor made the sound of nails being scraped across it. The sound became louder and a shriek of mad laughter accompanied it. Justin realized that who or whatever was following him down the hall was getting closer. Terror slid down his spine and he dared a look back, running straight into a wooden door with bone jarring force. Pain bloomed in his skull and he shook his head clear, causing bile to rise in his throat.
Swallowing, he faced the door and knew with absolute certainty that Vissa was inside, he sensed her. The high pitched giggle sounded out from behind him again and Justin whirled to find only darkness met him.
Forcing air into his lungs, he concentrated fiercely on eliminating the fear, focusing his thoughts on Kyrie. He turned to face the door again before calling to her through his mind.
“Kyrie, I’m at the door where Vissa is held but there’s a lock on it.”
“Close your eyes so that I may see through them,” she responded quickly and Justin closed his eyes. When they opened again, it was Kyrie’s violet orbs that took in the giant padlock on the door. She forced Justin’s hands to reach out and touch the lock, but a spark of electricity shot out, singing the tips of his fingers. Kyrie realized an enchantment was placed upon the lock and she closed Justin’s eyes in thought.
Taking a bracing breath and praying that it will work; she opened his eyes once more and raised his hands toward the lock. She felt her power began to rise in both of them and white light shot from Justin’s fingertips. The pure energy sparked up against the electrical energy until, with a loud boom, the lock gave way. Kyrie heard a wail of dismay and wondered what Justin was up against before departing from his body.
Immediately the violet eyes became green once again and Justin leaned against the door. His body weakened by the merge, he shuddered with the effort not to give in and lay down for a rest. The footsteps were getting closer, so Justin heaved a huge breath before opening the door and quickly entering. Shutting it behind him, he saw a giant stairway that spiraled upward. Groaning in despair, he began the ascent up the long circular stairwell.
Justin counted seventy-three steps before he stopped counting out of tiredness. He finally reached the top, panting heavily as he turned the knob and pushed the door open. Vissa lay huddled under thick woolen blankets, a star shaped crystal seen dangling from her neck. She looked up as the door opened and immediately burst into tears.
“I knew you would come for me. I knew deep inside.” She quickly stood and rushed over to Justin, hugging him tight. An alarm rang out through the entire fortress.
“Intruders, recapture the princess!” Agathane’s voice sounded out in the room and they quickly exited. They ran down all the stairs and burst through the door.
“Which way should we go?” Justin asked and Vissa grabbed his hand, running to the left. The star began to glow weakly, leaving them a path to follow. Justin hoped not to encounter whatever creature that was laughing strangely in the dark.
“We need to reach the Chamber of Mirrors,” she replied as they rushed past doors Justin passed earlier. “There is a mirror there that can get us out of the fortress.”
“How do you know that?” Justin asked as they reached the chamber that he first entered upon arrival. Vissa was searching each mirror, but she stopped and looked at him.
“I used it to escape one time, but was caught by one of the Gorgons.”
“She may have removed it from here,” he said and Vissa hissed in satisfaction as she pressed her hands against a tall mirror framed in wood.
“Agathane has too much arrogance to admit to fear or defeat. Quickly, let us pass through. Do not look either left or right, or you will be forever trapped in that world.” She placed her forehead against the glass and whispered in low undertones that Justin couldn’t hear. The crystal that she wore weakly glowed once again, as if unused for a while. The hard shield of the mirror became a rippling liquid and Vissa stepped inside with Justin following suit. They felt the cool liquid surround their bodies as a whistling sound filled their ears. They finally spotted the whiteness of the tundra ahead and escaped the liquid world of mirrored glass.
The group watched Justin and Vissa appear through a thin shimmer of light. They ran over to the group as they heard a screech from above.
“Rendar, have two of your wolves guard Vissa,” Kyrie said as she reached behind her back, producing two long bladed daggers. “Everyone else, prepare yourselves for battle.” Rendar communicated with two of his wolves and they circled around Vissa.
“Remember not to gaze into their eyes,” Rendar warned them as they saw creatures fly off the parapets. Justin saw that the creatures had the body of a snake, the wings of a dragon, a nest of pythons were their hair and their arms were human like. They swooped down upon the group and Rendar leapt up, grabbing one by the throat, snapping the creature’s neck. Justin saw upon closer inspection that they had no nose and long sharp teeth that protruded out of their top lip.
Justin drew his sword as one of the creatures flew at him. Closing his eyes, he swung with all his might and sliced the Gorgon across the belly. Green liquid splashed on the ground and melted the snow, eroding it entirely.
“Their blood has acid in it,” Justin screamed as the winged creature turned to attack him again. He slashed his sword into the air and the Gorgon flew backwards, before turning tail to escape. Justin threw his sword and it landed in the creatures back, bringing it down and killing it instantly. He ran over and pulled his sword free, seeing the green matter covering it. He turned and witnessed the battle that everyone was waging.
Nik gripped a Gorgon by the neck and twisted tight; snapping it like a twig. He dropped the lifeless creature on the ground and ducked from an attack by another Gorgon. He arched a high kick towards the approaching Gorgon and it hit the creature dead center. When it was on the ground, Nik pulled his sword free from the scabbard around his waist and decapitated the Gorgon. Brudan hopped onto a wolf’s back and they rushed through a group of Gorgons. He struck out with his sword as he zipped past, killing Gorgons left and right. He beheaded two instantly before piercing another through the heart. With that, he raced off on the wolf to enter sword first into another nest of Gorgons.
Harmon wielded his axe and chopped off an arm from the Gorgon he was fighting. It screeched and spat acid at him. Harmon ducked and struck at the beast again. He lodged his axe into the beast’s chest and it fell over dead. He pulled his axe free and hurled it towards another Gorgon that was closing in on Nik from behind. The creature turned in time for the axe to chop of its legs. It immediately crashed to the ground and Nik cleaved the writhing being in two. Nik tossed the axe back to Harmon and with twin smiles of savagery, they continued fighting.
Kyrie swung her daggers in a circular motion as she flew at the Gorgons. Her attack removed limbs from a group of them and they fell down in the snow. She flung an arm in their direction and a white orb appeared in the middle of her palm. Like a gun, she fired the circular ball of light and it blew the creatures apart. She swung around in the air, hair whipping about her like a fan as she threw her daggers at a Gorgon who was headed for Lalana. It struck the creature through the chest and it dropped like stone.
Agathane exited the fortress, eyes fired up with anger as she watched the massacre that was depleting her army. She spotted Vissa behind a couple of wolves and she frowned, lifting up her hands.
“Release my anger and strike down the intruders.” Black light formed on her fingertips and she shot it at the group. Vissa spotted what Agathane had done and screamed a denial in terror and fury. The jewel around her neck shone brightly as white light shot out and dueled with Agathane’s power. Both powers crackled and hissed against each other, creating electrical currents in the still air. It caused an explosion with a force that blew them all away from the Ice Fortress, high into the sky. The last thing that they heard was Agathane’s scream of frustration.
Justin whipped about in the air and saw Lyon blow right past him. He tried to reach for him but couldn’t. The wind carried him towards a destination. Where to, he didn’t know but he knew he couldn’t fight it. He began his descent through some trees and landed hard onto the ground. Luckily, none of his bones were broken as he tested out his limbs. Panting, he sat up and saw everyone lying within a few feet of each other.
“Is everyone alright?” Vissa asked this as she stood near a tree, watching them all.
“Aye, we be fine highness. Just wondering how we ended up here ’tis all.” Harmon groaned as he got to his feet. The others followed suit and looked around them.
“We are not in the Tundra of Terror any longer,” Lalana said. She picked up her sister’s daggers and handed them to her. “How is that possible?”
“The princess’ powers are awakening after a long slumber,” Rendar stated as he stretched his muscles. “She and Agathane’s forces slapped up against each other and transported us here.”
“Where is here?” Lyssa asked as she looked around, wondering where their location was.
“We are back in the Forest of Forgetfulness,” Kyrie said and the tone of her voice had everyone looking at her. She looked back at them, wide eyed. “Only, this is not a section that I know about. I do not know how we will get out.” They all looked around again as whispering erupted from the darkness of the forest.