Chapter Nine: Nobility is not complaining about appalug being served again.
They had been travelling undisturbed for a few days. It had not been difficult to reach Galshea, though they had been somewhat delayed by Ivak taking the time to paint this and that sight he had seen, it wasn’t that Ivak took particularly long to paint, but he made up for this in quantity. A sunset, a tree struck by lightning, a nest of rime hornets, basically any sight that caught his interest. Ivak even painted what turned out to be a quite flattering portrait of Fatho, it was of course a very stylized painting.
Fatho had been quite taken with it, until Ivak explained that it was based on when Fatho had been shrieking. It seemed Fatho was a bit embarrassed that had been his contribution to the fight.
It had all in all been quite a relaxed journey after their encounter with the appalugs.
All that changed once they reached Galshea. Everything seemed turned against them. The ice of Galshea had a strange sharpness to it that dug into their feet if they weren’t careful. The ground sometimes seemed smooth only to shatter and reveal fatal uneven spikes of ice, or deep pits of ice, lined with bladed shards like the mouths of some frozen sinister worms. Galshea was filled with cliffs of ice that abruptly ended. It was only by Fatho’s enhanced sense of direction that they avoided falling to their deaths.
The treacherous footing alone would have made the journey dangerous, but there was also the wind.
The winds of Nortrieln could be savage at the best of times but those of Galshea seemed outright malevolent, the way they pulled and pushed as if trying to toss anyone into the pits to their death. The winds were filled with snow such that Ivak could barely see Fatho in the lead, they had for this reason tied each other together with strong rope, Ivak between Fatho and Claroosa.
Ivak did not know how anyone was able to get through Galshea considering how dangerous it was even with Fatho’s guidance. Their everardent hearthstone struggled to assert its area of warmth and calm.
“This isn’t working!” Claroosa screamed over the wailing gales. “We need to stop, let the hearthstone assert its power, we’ll die if we go on like this!”
Fatho looked up uncertainly at the roiling snow and ice laden winds, he looked to Ivak, who was shivering greatly even with his enchanted clothes. Fatho was not affected by the cold quite as much but he nodded and made his way over to Claroosa.
Claroosa didn’t even nod, she slammed the staff of the hearthstone into the ice. The hearthstone glowed warmly, the air around the trio grew calmer and warmer, though the wind beyond would pierce cold fingers into the calm. Claroosa pressed a part of the staff and twisted it. There was a crack and the ice they were standing on shifted to form a shallow bowl. Ice slid about from their surroundings, slapping into place at the edges of the hearthstone’s field of influence. The ice crawled up, sealing them in a sphere. The only light was from the glow of the hearthstone. The ice cracked forming itself into brickwork, then forming shuttered windows and a doorway. A small hole opened at the top.
The freezing winds tore in as if seeking them. Claroosa pressed another part of the staff, and quickly took her hands away from the staff and stone. The stone burst into a soft flame, and the freezing winds were driven back.
Ivak sighed deeply and slumped down on the ground.
“We’ll rest a while, move, then stop again when it gets too much” Fatho said, sitting down and warming his hands by the hearthstone.
Claroosa nodded firmly and began taking cooking implements out from the massive pack of supplies that had been on her back.
Ivak nodded weakly. “I think I’ll catch some rest”
In spite of being used to more luxurious beds, the past few days had made Ivak more used to sleeping with just a cloak for a bed and bedsheet. Exhaustion helped a bit too. Ivak fell quickly into sleep.
He dreamed of an obsidian castle, mired in shadows.
He awoke to the smell of cooked food. It was appalug stew, it was a good meal and normally would smell good, but they had eaten appalug for the past few days in a number of forms, and even with good cooking the meat was still appalug.
Ivak did not complain however when Claroosa handed him his bowl. It was not noble to whine.
Fatho burped loudly. “Oop, beg pardon, gotta say that was some good stuff, yer a champion in cooking and combat Miss Mjorn”
Claroosa sniffed. “I’d be shaming House Vulk if I tried cooking and was terrible at it, but thank you Mr. Gubbluk”
Ivak swallowed his mouthful.
“I meant to think about this before, but I forgot about it in the fight against those beasts, but since we are going to Awarth that means the castle is in Awarth, doesn’t it?” he wondered.
“That or we have to get to Awarth to get to where the castle is” Claroosa observed.
Fatho scratched his head uncertainly.
“Actually, its been wrecking my head, I keep getting the feeling it is in Awarth and not in Awarth.”
“I guess the merchant wasn’t lying about the castle being made by the Sorcerer of Spaces Ceilron Shail.” Ivak said.
“Why couldn’t he have just built a castle all regular like? Would have spared me this headache” Fatho complained.
Claroosa shook her head “Magic users are all like that, if they can do something using their magic they’ll do it, to the powerful ones it is just like you or I using hands”
Ivak finished demolishing his stew.
“Speaking of magic I suppose I need to paint the rest of the stew.” he said.
“Yes, you do milord, It’ll be better kept fresh” Claroosa replied, already setting up an easel.
Ivak got to painting, wildly splashing paint on canvas as soon as he had the Artist’s Friend manifested.
“Still amazed at how he does that painting” Fatho said. “Just how many of them blank pictures you got anyway?”
Claroosa patted one of the bags on the side of the main bag of supplies it was rectangular and about as wide and long as two hands.
“Holding bag of canvases, it can hold a lot of canvases, don’t know how many but then it usually ends badly trying to test the limits of a holding bag.”
Holding bags that store only one type of thing are on the whole far easier to make than other kinds, and House Vulk had an artefact that made making them even easier.
“Yeah, I had a cousin back in Cahrissia, she had a cheap holding bag of pretty stones, a hedge wizard that took a fancy for her made it for her, anyway she just kept putting stones in it over the years and well, one day she put a stone in it, it burst taking her right arm and forming some kind of magic stone spirit. Course she was lucky, instead of bleeding to death, the spirit saved her by turning into an arm of pretty stones for her.”
“That definitely could have turned out worse for her” Claroosa said.
“It kinda did, the arm was fine for a while but it went bad and she ended up taking a hammer to it while it tried to murder her, on the bright side of that, she ended up settling down with the smith she snatched the hammer from, last I heard she was learning smithy from him”
Around the end of that, Ivak finished his painting. His crest flared out behind him and the stew was bound within the painting. At the same time, the winds began to pick up, the howling growing louder.
“That’s bad, we might have to hunker down for a while longer” Fatho said.
Ivak frowned, there was something on the edge of his remembrance, he gasped when he remembered it.
“We’ve stayed too long, the heat will have lured an ice spirit to us!”
“That happens?” Fatho asked incredulously.
“This is what I get for having stuck to gates on my own quest” Claroosa muttered.
“We need to know what kind we are dealing with!” Ivak said.
Claroosa went over to one of the shuttered windows. She slowly opened it.
She just barely dodged the icicle that shot through the window.
Claroosa slammed the shutter back. There was a crash as another icicle hit off the outside of the shelter.
“What was it?” Fatho asked.
Claroosa took a deep breath.
“It was some kind of flying wheel of ice, spiked and with jaws of ice on the sides.”
“A wheel spirit, well on one hand it isn’t going to kill us all just because it wants to, wheel spirits are mindless. It’ll try kill us all because of the warmth we’re making”
“I’d normally be able to fight it, but in these conditions, my chances aren’t good” Claroosa said.
There was more thuds as the wheel spirit of ice continued its assault on the shelter. It was only a matter of time before the shelter was broken.
“I guess we need a plan” Fatho said seriously, eyeing the hearthstone and Ivak.