91 Zi'da 717
The Tundra north of Viden
The scrolls that lined the glittering cavern were numerous, but none of them drew the attention of the two women quite like the second field journal. This one, with no name on it, was clasped by cold, dead fingers. But Maebella's insistence on removing it proved too powerful for the perfectly frozen coprse, and after a moment, the journal broke loose. Darcyanna, who'd been busy loosening the ties holding the armour on jumped as the body creaked, but nothing happened.
Armed with their choices from the chest, and two daggers each now, they would have been more than equipped if the walls opened and spit forth a never-ending stream of beasts to consume them for disturbing the dead. Strangely, though they both did not know it, that very thought crossed both their minds at the same time. They were armed, but were they prepared.
The map of the cave system showed ten chambers, each connected by either a square denoting a doorway, or a dotted line denoting a strange way through. Looking at it, Maebella understood that directly, and there were only dotted lines around the chamber she and Darcyanna were in, as well as the far side of the chamber they'd come from. There was also a door on both sides of that cavern, where they presumed Caius and Alucard would have to take into the connected chamber, which had little black X's, thirteen of them, scribbled.
Alucard swung along the rope, crashing heavily into the icy wall. Grimacing, the man slammed his pickaxe in and pulled, yanking and slamming it back into the ice to gain a few inches every time. It was slow going, and if either man could feel cold, he gave no indication. Instead, Caius stood there, arm outstretched, waiting for Alucard to get close enough to pull him to safety. It took bits, easily, and the old First Ranger weezed as he drew close enough for Caius to grasp. He extended his hand, and gripped Caius' with both when they grasped. He'd left the ice axe behind, but it was a small price to pay for survival.
Caius pulled him up, and the two men lied on the far side of the chasm, gasping. Alucard looked over, eyes dark and half-closed, and nodded briefly in thanks. He sat up, his chest heaving, and nodded towards the door at the end of the platform. Standing with a grunt, he lifted Caius from a nearly prone position.
"C'mon then, lad. We ain't dead. Yet."
Caius couldn't feel the cold, but the final word sent a shiver through his spine far more chilling than any cold in the North. Alucard drew his weapon and began down the path, which was long and winding.
The field journal was propped open on the dais, with both women standing over it. Far less coherent than the previous one, this one was a jumble of thoughts and words, some completed, some not, some in a language that Maebella recognized as Leni, a pidgin language developed by the Ellune working in Viden. At least one of the rangers that had attempted to traverse the ten caverns was an Ellune, and had penned this journal, if not the other too. Her scarce knowledge gave her a little insight, but there were some things she couldn't make out.
"We lost one to the cold. Fell into chasm. He reappeared in the first room, but his left leg was frozen..."
It stated. Two to One, Freezing. It clicked for both women, and whomever had added it to the first field journal understood the grave implications of the chasm in the previous chamber. It wasn't death to fall into it. Not a quick one.
"This room... It's a library of sorts. Hrivar calls it the Heart Chamber, but there is no heart in here. Only the freezing cold. Only the cold,"
it continued, and below it was a drawing of the Heart Room. It looked exactly as the two women were seeing it, even with the body in the corner. The man who drew it drew himself into the chamber, and on it, it indicated the scrolls on the dais next to the maps, each with a number. 1, 2, 4. Underneath, a hastily scrawled note.
"1... Made me warmer.
2... allowed Hrivar to cut through the ice like he was made of hot iron...
4... Fucking Yvithia! She became a godsdamned ghost, walked right through the godsdamned walls!"
Looking up, Darcy and Maebella saw the scrolls, still sitting as they were labeled. There was no sound in the room, other than the beating of both of their hearts. And the final note, it was the strangest. A drawing of a dog-like creature made from ice, but massive, was there, etched with razor edges. Below it, a word in Leni that neither recognized.
Must have been its name. They hoped.
They walked, silently, in each other's company. Nearly dying had fostered something in the two men, and when Alucard glanced back to ensure that Caius was still there, he wasn't looking like he would at the nuisance of a child, as he had since Caius first opened his mouth. The ice-like fracture on Caius' chest meant he was chosen, and it ignited something in Alucard, the noble boy could tell.
Still, though, Alucard was focused on the mission, fellow Ezere or not. Now that Alucard was safe, and neither had died in the pit, they had to find where Darcyanna and Maebella had gone... Though neither was sure that the women were alive, they had to proceed on the basis that they were. As they rounded a corner, they both saw a widening maw at the end, giving them hope that the women were in the chamber just beyond. With a glance back, Alucard began to nearly run to the opening, Caius hot on his tail.
As they drew closer, though, the First Ranger stopped hard in his tracks, nearly toppling forward from his momentum. Caius slowed behind him, and when he got to Alucard's level, they both peered into the room. Caius' breath stuck in his throat, as he'd never seen anything like them.
About the size of large cats, the beasts looked as if they'd been carved from the ice surrounding them. Colours danced along their bodies, and as each movement, the cracking of the ice over a pond was heard. They were communicating, the two realized, but not in language either recognized. The thirteen ice beasts faced away from them, moving slowly and grating their bodies to speak. It was a low tumult, and Alucard leaned close to Caius, his stinky breath hot on the noble's face.
"Thinkin' we could sneak right by 'em, if'n we're real quiet. Ye should feel Ziell's power in yer blood now, boy. If'n ye can, try to walk with the quietness of the snowfall."
Alucard's voice was low, but it was instructive. Caius knew the man knew what he was talking about. As they traveled, slowly, the beasts grated and echoed along the chamber, which looked to be some sort of cavernous housing to the creatures. None of them turned, none of them sensed the two men creeping along behind them. It did not stop Alucard from brandishing his weapon, always at the ready.
When they reached the far side of the room, though, the wall of ice was closed and empty, solid. Alucard frowned and looked at Caius, indicating the wall. He turned back to face the ice beasts, leaving Caius, obviously the thinker of the two, to examine the wall. When he did, he saw he slickness of the ice, unperturbed. Along its surface, small ice crystals had formed every, a dewy armour of crystals covering the integrity of the wall. Looking closely, though, Caius saw something was strange.
There was a small portion of the wall whose crystals were smaller than the others, perhaps as if more newly formed. A small circular area, with five extensions coming off, and all surrounded by larger crystals. Alucard hissed back, whispering to Caius.
"Figure it out, my Lord. We're gonna be in a shit hole of shit in a trill,"
he muttered, and when Caius checked over his shoulder, he saw the strangely humanoid-shaped head of the ice beast turned toward Alucard. Just looking at it sent trepidation through the nerves in his body. He had ti figure it out... And quickly.
The women searched around the Heart Cavern but there was nothing, no exit, no hidden doorway, no tear. They stood there, checking the scrolls and tomes along the walls, but everything seemed in place. They were stuck in the Heart Cavern, exactly as the man who had held the Field Journal had been.
They might soon be joining him.
Okay. Little clarification here.
Maebella, you may NOT choose one of the three scrolls remaining, since you grabbed the Map.
Darcyanna, you may choose ONE of the three scrolls on the table. Choose wisely.
Caius, you have 1 round to figure out the wall before being attacked by 13 ice beasts. Good luck.