Category Archives: Good Reads

Chapter 3: The Ice Queen.. Page 19

Chapter 1: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9
Chapter 2: Page 10, Page 11, Page 12, Page 13, Page 14, Page15, Page 16Page 17
Chapter 3: Page 18  

In the end, they decided to go ahead. All conjectures were ultimately no match against plain greed, and a dangerous dose of curiosity.

‘We go up,’ Max said, ‘Look sharp, and make haste.’

They climbed the stairs, going through numerous rooms and corridors. They did not dally long in any one place, though they passed many curious objects and works of exquisite art. The urgency in their hearts was only slightly less imperative than their need to complete the mission. If their certainty of Ishar’s presence was but a tad stronger, they would have fled.

But there was not a soul to confront them.

Several times, they got a scare from the many statues set beside certain doors. The ornaments were mistaken for armoured warriors more than once, so real did they seem.

Some levels higher, they came to a study and library of sorts. It had rows and rows of bookcases stuffed full of musty old tomes. Paplo lingered a while there, as his companions looked in at the adjoining rooms. When Wykka came to call him out, the youth thought he saw the former thief look up guiltily from one of the lecterns.

‘Did you find something?’ Wykka had asked.

‘Nothing,’ Paplo replied quickly, ushering his friend out. Wykka could not help feeling that Paplo was hiding something, but he was too anxious of finishing their business to inquire further.

They continued on.

‘Where’s that gawden Throne Room?’ Max grouched. ‘It can’t be so high up.’

‘Mayhaps we missed it downstairs,’ Eladred said. ‘I keep feeling that there are many more places to explore, below.’

‘It’s the Throne Room – it can’t be hidden in some obscure corner,’ Max said, ‘Anyway, we should continue upwards. If we still haven’t found it by the time we reach the top, we’ll search more thoroughly on the way back down.’

Finally, they came to double doors of silver and gold. It was etched with a beautiful pattern reminiscent of the sky and mountains, encrusted with precious stones. At either side were especially large statues of bronze, at least seven feet tall.

‘Treasure!!’ exclaimed Paplo, unsheathing his dagger.

‘Hold on!’ Max said, taking out his pole once more.

The doors slid open with only a gentle prod from the pole. Immediately, a grinding sound emitted from the statues. And then they began to move..

‘Holy Light of Rah!!’ Paplo swore.

Eladred loosed three arrows in succession. As always, the missiles struck with devastating force and accuracy. Against the metal bodies of the statues, they penetrated no more than an inch, and affected them not at all.

The two statues advanced with ponderous malediction, iron maces raised. A wave of fear assailed them.

Max howled a dwarven war cry and leaped in with his hammer. One of the statues struck him with its mace. The dwarf deftly caught it with his shield, but was nonetheless sent flying to the side wall.

Paplo threw his dagger at the statue, but it bounced off harmlessly. The other statue moved to flank him, mace angled to smash the youth to pulp. Wykka saw its intension, instinctively throwing his axe at its upraised arm. The axe flew true – its head jammed into the elbow joint, disabling that limb.

Seeing that, Eladred shouted, ‘These abominations are magickal constructs, and cannot be killed! Take off their limbs instead!’ The elf dropped his bow and drew his sword.

‘I see the Throne Room beyond the doors!’ Paplo cried, as he attacked his opponent’s kneecap with his axe.

Max recovered from his fall with a grunt. ‘Wykka! Get in there, and break off a piece of stone gargoyle! We’ll hold off these goons!’ the dwarf said, as he charged the statues again.

Eladred parried the statues’ blows as best as he could, while Paplo tried to chop off a leg. ‘Hurry! We may not be able to stop them for long! We’re getting out of here once we have the gargoyle – I don’t think these things can outrun us.’

‘I’m on my way!’ Wykka affirmed, dodging below a swipe from a statue, before speeding towards the doors.

The statue tried to go after the youth, but the concentrated attacks of Max, Eladerd and Paplo forced them to stay, or risk incapacitation.

 

                                                                to be continued…

Chapter 3: The Ice Queen.. Page 18

Chapter 1: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9
Chapter 2: Page 10, Page 11, Page 12, Page 13, Page 14, Page15, Page 16Page17
  

The hall had grandiose dimensions, with soaring pillars of white marble, engraved with mystical creature. The walls, too, were rife with chiselled relief, especially around the enormous glass panes that offered a glimpse of blue skies. The floor was an intricate mosaic of various white hues, smooth as pared ice. White , and the colour of the sky, transformed the light of day into radiance, giving the impression that the entire enclosure was sculpted from ice.

‘Holy Light of Rah,’ Paplo muttered, in awe.

Max was on his knees, to better appreciate the perfect flatness of the floor. ”Tis beyond the skill of modern dwarves!’ be breathed, ‘Only the mastersmiths of old possessed such arcana!’

Eladred was more interested in the exquisite beauty of the stone carvings, ‘The art of the creator goes beyond mere genius! Not only was his craft with hammer and chisel without peer, he had the gift of expression. See how life-like are the forms depicted, charged with evocative energy!’

Wykka and Paplo stood transfixed by the wonder around them.

After long moments spent in admiration, they remembered that they were supposed to be in the deserted abode of the Most Dreaded Name In History. Except that the place did not look like it had been deserted for more than a day!

‘It is as I feared,’ Max said, ‘The ancient evil endured!’

‘The Ice Queen?’ Paplo queried, looking around fearfully.

‘Or Her minions,’ Max said, ‘How else to explain the fact that the Citadel has not fallen into ruin, after a thousand years?’

‘It may be that some enchantment survived Ishar’s demise. Perhaps that is what maintains her fortress in good repair. After all, we have not seen anu guards,’ Eladred reasoned.

‘That is a possibility,’ admitted Max, ‘But it could also be that the Ice Queen, or Her minoins, had gone out – soon to return!’

‘Then we should leave now!’ Paplo said.

‘Not so fast, young Paplo,’ Max said, ‘Since we’re already here, we might as well try for the Throne Room. It would be easier to convince the King to part with his gold, if we took back one of the gargoyles there.’

‘I agree,’ Eladred said, ‘If there were guards in the Citadel, they would have appeared by now. Even if it is as Max surmised, mayhaps we could yet escape before they return.’

‘Then let’s do it quick!’ Paplo said, sprinting for the great winged stairs at the other end of the hall.

‘Careful!’ cautioned Eladred. ‘There must be safeguards installed, else this place would have been looted long since.’

Paplo hesitated, voicing hopefully, ‘Traps may not have been necessary. The name of Ishar still has power to terrify. Perhaps it was sufficient to deter tomb raiders.’

‘It didn’t deter us,’ the elf pointed out. ‘Best not to sacrifice care for haste.’

Uncharacteristically, Wykka chipped in his penny’s worth, ‘I don’t know. I find it strange that the doors weren’t locked, if the residents had indeed gone out.’

At that thought, Max furrowed his brows worriedly, ‘What if the Citadel was in decay, but has only been recently restored? By sorcery? I suspect that would take a lot of effort; maybe enoughto limit a wytch from maintaining a host of supernatural cohorts, for a time. That would explain the absence of guards. If so, it is possible that She is in the Citadel somewhere, regaining Her strength. It would correspond with the remours: Ishar has returned!’

 

                                                                to be continued…