Chapter 64. The Frost Giants King.
We made a few torches out of the left over wood. Roland took one to light up the path at the front and I held one walking behind everyone else. Horrace and Inri took few extra ones in case mine or Roland’s torch would burn out.
The path through the cave was rather narrow. However, not too small for us to walk. Roland was moving slowly and carefully.
The pathway opened to a wider area, which wasn’t totally dark. It was full of small, shiny crystals covered in ice. They didn’t provide much light, but we were able to see walls and ceilings around us.
- You just look at that. - Roland exclaimed.
- What is it Master Roland? - Meera rushed forward. - Wow!
- So beautiful. - we heard Inri’s voice.
Eve pulled me by hand wanting to see what others saw. We came out into an open space, sparkling with lights of many colors.
- Wooow! So pretty. - Eve was charmed.
- Where are all those lights coming from? - asked Meera.
- Look, is that a steam over there? - pointed out Rlani.
Everyone gasped at an amazing sight, especially girls.
- Hey! Be careful. We don’t know if anyone is lurking around here. - warned Roland.
I didn’t sense anything. Even if the cave was wide and big, the pathway leading to it was quite small and narrow. No big creature would be able to get through. And we were in a land of giants. Those big snow wolves proved that.
- I think it’s fine. Lets look around, shall we? - I said.
- Hihi. - Eve rushed forward.
- There’s water here. - exclaimed Meera. - And... it’s warm?
- It’s almost as hot as the one in the Passion Springs Bath House. - added Inri.
And why would you compare it’s warmth with the Passion Springs Bath House?
But she wasn’t the only one surprised.
- How come the water is so warm when everything is frozen in ice around here? - Roland wondered.
I chuckled quietly. It wasn’t uncommon to find hot springs at snowy mountains where I come from. But since it was their first time at a place like this, no wonder they were surprised.
I was about to tell them about it, but then realized it wasn’t a good idea. I would have a hard time explaining where did I find the ‘other’ Frozen Mountains with a place like this.
- Do you think it is safe to take a bath in this pool? - Eve wondered.
Eve... why am I not surprised? Of course it is. That would be such a treat right now. Unfortunately... ahem... we’re sort of... not alone.
I pretended I didn’t hear her question. However, I noticed the other girls were fond of the idea.
- It is not a good idea to linger in one place for too long. We still have our quest to complete. - said Sebastian.
I was surprised to hear those word come out of Sebastian’s mouth. I didn’t know what it was, but I had a strange suspicions about him. Sebastian did his part when it was needed, but something about him was bugging me.
- Sebastian is right. We need to keep going. There must be a way out somewhere. - said Roland.
Eve, of course, wanted to stay a little longer. The crystals kinda reminded me of the cave with doggons we were in. But this place was ten times more amazing.
We walked for another half an hour or so. There was only one path in this cave, which made it easy for us. Eventually we noticed the flame on our torches started to catch a breeze of wind. We were close to the exit.
- Wow! So bright. - Eve covered her eyes.
It was only natural. Even if it wasn’t for very long, spending some time in a dark place will make our eyes sensitive to a bright light. And sun’s rays on a white snow only intensified the brightness.
- I can’t believe it. The pathway through the cave was a real blessing. - said Roland.
- If it isn’t the Frost Giants Stronghold, then I don’t know what it is. - Horrace was pointing forward.
- What a lucky turn. - Sebastian was smiling.
- We did it Master Roland. - Meera cheered.
Everyone was so happy, you’d think they found a lifetime’s treasure.
- But it’s so cold outside. - Eve complained.
Haha. Of course it is. We are still on the Frozen Mountains.
I almost laughed out loud. Eve couldn’t care less about the Stronghold. She was more interested in taking a bath in the hot springs.
- Aghem... I’m happy that you’re happy. But I have to ask. - I said.
- What is it? - Roland turned to me.
- What are you so happy about? - I asked with a serious face.
- Well, we... - Roland was about to say something when his face expression suddenly changed.
Exactly! Doh... No comments though.
Our group’s leader scratched his head feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t have to say it, but our Quest was a little more specific than finding the Frost Giants settlement. And we didn’t know if it was the giants settlement yet. I could understand everyone’s excitement, but it was too early to celebrate.
- How about we take a short rest and go see if Frost Giants actually live there? - suggested Roland.
Our excitement didn’t make the freezing cold any warmer, nor the ice less slippery. Actually it was even worse than on the other side of the mountain. Deep snow and occasional bumping into icy rocks under it, made our progress extremely challenging. Despite that, we kept a steady pace towards the snow covered Stronghold.
- I can’t believe we haven’t encountered any Frost Giants yet. - said Horrace.
- Frost Giants or not, I can’t believe someone would be able to live in this harsh environment. - said Roland.
Unfortunately, both of them were wrong about their comments.
- Eve. - I whispered. - Stay close to me.
- Is something wrong TC? - she asked.
- Should we take a rest next to those boulders? It will provide us with the cover against this freezing wind at least. - suggested Roland.
- I say we better not. We won’t be able to anyway. - I stopped.
It was very faint, maybe because of the cold, or the area, or because they were blending into the environment very well, but I could sense a presence somewhere around us.
- What are you saying? Do you see something we do not? - Roland looked around.
- Whatever you do, stay calm. - my words made everyone reach for their weapons.
- Stay calm everyone. What is it TC? I can’t see anyone. - said Roland.
Neither do I. But that doesn’t mean they can’t see us.
I took a deep breath, hoping my words will be understood.
- Greetings! - I shouted. - We mean no harm! We came with friendly intentions!
A deep echo of my words flew through the snowy field. People were silently looking around in all directions. It became quiet for a moment.
Then suddenly, to our big shock, one of the boulders that Roland spoke of earlier, moved and grew tall. Everyone was startled by a sudden movement of what it looked like a huge, ice rock moving on it’s own at first.
The snow and the ice crumbled and a menacing, frost covered demeanour was looking down at us. Nobody had any doubts, nor courage to move even a muscle, after seeing a Frost Giant standing in front of us.
If Orgob was big, then the giant in front of us was huge. Big and muscular, like a mountain itself. To our big surprise, he wasn’t wearing any armor. Only some shoulder pads, bracers, mantle around his waist and big shoes. He also had a skull on his head as a helmet. It could’ve been from one of those snow wolves we’ve encountered earlier. A long, frostbitten spear was in his right hand.
The giant’s blue, icy skin showed that the freezing cold wasn’t bothering him at all. Compared to him, Orgob looked like a tiny, little goblin.
He looked at us without much of a concern. In his eyes we weren’t even a threat to him.
- What are such puny humans doing in these mountains? - his voice sent shivers down our spines.
- Scary. - Eve clung to my side.
Roland gestured not to act irrationally, then stepped forward.
- Greetings. My name is Roland. I am the leader of this group. We came here seeking to meet your kind. - he spoke.
- Oh? Seeking our kind? - the giant stared at him. - And for what purpose?
- We want to become your allies and build a friendly relationships with the Frost Giants. - Roland answered.
- Is that how humans call us? It must be freezing cold if you use such words. You are, after all, tiny creatures. - the giant commented.
His words weren’t received as a compliment by some people in the group.
- All we want is a chance to speak to your ruler. - said Roland.
- Our ruler? - he gave Roland a puzzling stare. - Our King does not welcome outsiders in his palace.
- With all due respect. If we could talk to your King we would be so much grateful. We can offer clothing and food as part of our friendship. - Roland insisted.
- Clothing? Hahaha! - the giant laughed in a loud voice. - Clothing is only something lesser races need.
- Lesser races? - Horrace took it personally.
But Sebastian stopped him from doing something foolish.
- Food on the other hand... is not something easy to obtain in these mountains. - the giant thought for a moment. - Very well. But it will be up to our King to decide if your offer is worth his time. Follow me.
The giant turned his back to us and walked forward. Not a speck of fear of being stabbed in the back. If I was him, I wouldn’t be worried too much either.
- What if it’s a trap that will lead us to our deaths? - Horrace wasn’t very trusting.
- Now, now. We can’t pass the chance to see the Frost Giants King himself. - Sebastian was willing to follow.
- Sebastian is right. We’ve come this far. We can’t let this opportunity to pass us by. Lets follow him. But be on your guard. Even if he’s a giant, he’s by himself. - Roland was careful as well.
That’s what everyone thought initially as well. But as soon as we moved to go after the giant, he raised his spear and swiftly bashed it into the ground few times. We felt the frozen ground shake under our feet.
Suddenly, not too far around us, three more giants rose up and gazed at us with their icy, cold eyes. It was foolish to think we can be careless with our actions.
- Stay calm everyone. They didn’t show any hostility towards us. - said Roland.
- Not yet. - commented Horrace.
Meera was walking confidently next to Roland, but was gripping her shield tightly. Inri and Rlani glanced at the Frost Giants occasionally. Eve, on the other hand, wasn’t worried at all. If anything, she was overly impressed to see a Frost Giant.
I wasn’t so much worried about the giants myself. I didn’t sense any hostility from them. My concern was seeing Sebastian so eager to meet their king. Still, whatever was on his mind I didn’t want to believe he will be foolish enough to provoke the Frost Giants ruler.
The giant’s footsteps were wide, but he walked slowly so we could keep up. He led us straight to their stronghold. It took us a while, but we finally reached it. We were met by the guards at the gate. They were as huge and as menacing as the one who led us here.
The guards spoke to our guide in a language we didn’t understand. After a short exchange of words, the gate was opened to let us through. We entered a big courtyard, which surprisingly, was completely empty.
- Follow me humans. - the giant spoke when he saw us looking around.
Now that we were inside, there was no time to wonder. Roland gestured for us to follow our guide.
The castle was simple, yet looked strong. Big walls were supported by even bigger columns. There were plenty of weapons stacked in a various places around the courtyard. None of which a human would be able to lift.
Some parts of the walls were old, but some were new or showed signs of being fixed.
Maybe they were attacked by someone at some point. Few markings showed it could’ve been recent.
- They are low on guards inside the castle. - commented Horrace.
- Well, they did call us ‘puny humans’. - said Sebastian.
- The bigger they are, the harder they fall. - smirked Horrace.
- Enough. We didn’t come here to fight. If we are lucky, at least we can leave this place in good terms. - Roland stopped the idle chatter.
Whether the leading Frost Giant heard us or not, he didn’t bother to turn around or say anything. Soon we reached a tremendous hallway with huge, frozen doors.
- Wait here while I inform the King of your arrival. - the giant instructed.
He went inside and the doors closed behind him.
- Phew. Quite a friendly fella. - Sebastian tried to joke.
- The damn corridors are so huge, I can barely see the ceiling. I hate it. - Horrace was grumpy.
As annoying as Horrace was, he had a point. The inside of the castle made you feel much smaller than you are. We were really tiny compared to our surroundings.
- I must say they surprised me with agreeing to see their king. - said Roland. - Lets keep ourselves low when we talk. That giant did mention their king is not very accepting of other races.
- As you say Roland. - Sebastian smiled somewhat sheepishly.
- Maybe that’s a good sign? Not only Frost Giants didn’t attack us, they are willing to talk. - added Meera.
- That’s true. - said Roland.
In a few more moments the doors opened and the same Frost Giant came out.
- Our King will see you. But choose your words carefully or you will pay the price. - he warned us.
We entered a huge hall, with the ceiling reaching almost as high as the sky. Frozen columns sparkled, reflecting sun’s rays coming from the windows.
Two guards were standing close to king’s seat. The king himself wasn’t like the other Frost Giants we met on our way here. Even entering the Stronghold I felt the chill of a powerful presence. And now I had no doubt what it was. The king’s aura was frightening to the bones. One would succumb to a cold fear even before entering his domain.
Even seated, the king was bigger in size and, differently from the rest of the giants, he was wearing armor. And not just any armor. The throne and the air around it was sparkling from frozen, magic particles. If you are not a Frost Giant, you’d be frozen solid if you get too close.
Apart from his armor, the king held a big, spiked mace in his right hand. One swing would flatten anything hit by it. I’ve seen many powerful beings back in my world and I had to admit that the Frost Giants king was one of those who sent a chill down my spine.
- So these are the humans you mentioned? - the king spoke. - What a feeble race you are. I am mildly impressed your tiny bodies didn’t freeze up by getting here.
- Your Highness, I am extremely grateful for you allowing us to be here. - Roland bowed down.
- Oh? As puny as you are, you do have some manners. Very well. I will allow you to speak your mind. - the king said.
- Thank you Your Highness. - said Roland. - We came here seeking to build a friendly bridge between humans and the Frost Giants. We believe all of us can benefit from it.
- Benefit from it? I do not see what such a feeble race as yourselves can offer us. - the king declared.
- It is true that your race is far more powerful than ours. Still, we could work together and exchange some goods between our races. For example we could offer food in exchange of some crafting materials found in these mountains. - Roland’s tried to persuade him.
So that’s what he was after. It’s true, these mountains can hold a ton of valuable minerals that can be used in crafting.
- I am not concerned about it. - declared the king. - Your kind was meddling in our territory for years now. Such offer is hardly worth my time.
For years? I thought this is the first expedition ever.
- Please, Your Highness I wish-
- Enough! I was curious to see the so called humans with my own eyes. Unfortunately, your race is as big a disappointment as your intentions. Leave now and be grateful you were allowed to even be in my presence. - the king ordered.
- Wait. Let me-
- The King has spoken! - the giant who brought us here stood in front of us.
He raised his spear and glared at us fiercely. Two guards, who were standing next to the king, stepped forward as well.
- Sorry, we apologise. We will be leaving now. Wouldn’t it be a waste to trample such insignificant insects as ourselves in front of your esteemed King? - Sebastian’s sweet talk seemed to reach them.
Even the king was slightly pleased to hear Sebastian call us ‘insignificant insects’. Two guards stepped back and the giant at the front lowered his spear.
- I will walk you out. - the Frost Giant said and turned to the door.
I was about to let a sigh of relief when I noticed Rlani, who was hiding behind Sebastian, readying her bow.
- What? No! Don’t! - I yelled.
- Horrace! Now! - Sebastian commanded.
To my big surprise, and Roland’s horror, Horrace jumped at the Frost Giant who was about to open the doors for us.