by thefourpartland

The next morning hardly felt like he’d had any sleep at all, though, and the exhaustion stayed with Yaden all through that day, as they ascended the last of the green saddles. As they reached the crest and received their first views of the other side, a series of low whistles and muttered curses drifted from their mouths.

Before them, the landscape flattened and opened wide, the peaks now scattered further apart, and a vast plain taking its place between them. But rather than the scrub that they had traversed before coming to this point, the ground was now splotched with snow, and a carpet of low pines covered much of the land, filling the terrain from the expanse before them almost to the horizon.

And it was on the horizon that the view grew even more desolate, for there, emerging from the wooded terrain, was a massive glacier, its white bulk reflecting light even at this great distance. It was to that glacier that Canere had surmised they must go, for supposedly it marked the rough destination of the skycity for which they searched.

“What do you think lives in that?” Ira looked over at Canere as she gestured over the fast expanse before them.

“I wish I knew. The books speak of creatures who cannot tolerate any warmth, who live only in the coldest and most barren of the northern climes, and it appears we are going to meet them soon.”

“You’re saying there’s monsters in those woods. And possible elemental beings too.” Yaden’s expression was unhappy, to say the least.

“Ice creatures, certainly. And the predators who feast on them. These northern wastes were poorly travelled even in the height of Hania’s glory, and with reason. They do not lend themselves to any productive use, except for the harvesting of those creatures, and perhaps some timber.”

“Either way, you think we need to get all the way to that glacier. Which means we might as well get started. At least down there, there’s going to be wood for a good fire or two.” Ira shouldered her heavy pack once more, and trotted off down the saddle, the others reluctantly following.


The first of those winter predators welcomed the visiting Hanians at twilight of the next day. Having spent the day fighting through the tightly packed branches of the pines, the three explorers were tired, and, having found a small clearing, decided to set up camp at the base of the knoll that occupied the opening amidst the trees.

As they spread out in search of wood, a roar sounded from the peak of the knoll, and atop it stood a massive furry thing, teeth drawn back in a feral grin.

Cursing the creature, Ira ripped her blade from its scabbard and charged it down. Whatever the dangers, she had always been taught to meet them with the full fury and anger that she could summon when in a fight. That burst of strength and headlong resistance could often overwhelm opponents before they knew what the true balance of the fight was.

As she closed with the creature, she swung hard, digging her sword into its gut, headless of any return strike. Rather than respond as she expected, the monster howled in pain, eyes flaring as it slid out of her range, the elegant dodge of her sweeping counter denoting intelligence behind the feral casing. Mouth opening wide, it bucked up high on its hind legs, breathing in deeply, the very air screeching as it disappeared into the cavernous chest. Thumping back down to the ground, the beast transferred all of that energy to its chest, explosively expelling the chill air in a wave of frozen ice and grasping tendrils of cold, bathing Ira in a deep and chill swarm, momentarily blinding her with the frozen tongue of air.

Reacting only a little less swiftly than Ira, Canere skirted to the side, moving so that Ira would not be affected by his impending magic. Satisfied that she was safe, the arcanist gestured, ending with the tossing back his of head. From his mouth came a great flame, bathing his foe in a roasting tongue of fire.

Yaden, for his part, flicked one of his little dancing spheres of light at the beast, hoping it would distract the creature. He then approached rather more cautiously, uncertain if his assistance would help Ira with the combat, or hinder her sweeping strokes.

The blast of cold was something Ira hadn’t quite expected, but it was something she was prepared to deal with. Ducking down, she let the cold mix with the heat of the fire from Canere, shedding some of the ice from her cloak. Grateful for the warmth, she waded in again, closing the distance to the creature and slashing it across the shoulder, leaving a ragged wound.

The icy monster howled in pain, shying away from Ira and then bursting up the slope, moving at a lightning pace to scramble away from a hunt gone wrong. Its paws tossed snow into the air as it speeds across the land, spray churning with each stride.

Seeing the creature now in full flight, Canere stretched his hands out towards the beast, letting fly a series of shooting sparks toward the beast’s retreating back, making it yip and pour on ever more speed.

And with that, the beast was gone, disappearing over the knoll and presumably never to return.


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