Her body raised to his chest. His incantations bent language and song. Once dead weights, her arms sprang at her side as her head jutted back in an audible breath. Her flight raised and brought her up straight as if being pulled out of water. Her presence became an aura and then her aura a glow powerful enough to repel their vision. It released from her in a wave. Their vision returned to the scene after what felt like snowblind faded away.
The beautiful girl, raven-haired in a red tattered riding dress, its high cuts at the hips, stood breathing steady, slow, heavy breaths. Each one emitted no vapor – her breath was just as cold as the cavern. Her eyes glowed as blue, but more brilliantly than the surrounding giant icicles.
Blackwater carefully approached the ledge, trying their best to not echo through the chasm. The woman began to berate Wilhelm. Their best attempts to follow along only brought the occasional recognized word. Whoever she was, she was angry, and was worthy of being treated like royalty. He welcomed her back as if she was once gone and spoke of another plane of existence. His sacrifices had made her reborn.
Johann had seen enough. He waltzed to the ledge and called out to his brother. Just what was all this? What had he become?
The woman was angrier than ever now. Wilhelm had certainly made a mistake and did not tie loose ends, but he welcomed Johann without anger. The War had changed him and he had found a new god. The shadow made his battered body and mind strong again and promised him infinite power in a rain of blood. He would help raise an army…and bring back an ancient demon.
He tried to share it with their siblings Femke and Arjen, but they would not serve The Dark Lord. It was unfortunate, but he had to display his newfound strength…and kill them. But he would not have to do so to Johann. They could rule under a shade of crimson, together.
Johann’s stance stammered in shock. His family was gone and all that was left was a broken man, consumed by evil. Power and knowledge was not worth the death of so many and a deal with a demon. No, he would stop Wilhelm at all costs.
Blackwater sprang into action as they hurried down the icy ramp. Hidden by shadows and ice formations, they approached the Orcs and Ice Mage. Wilhelm, in his tunnel vision of rage fired beams of ice in Johann’s direction while the battle ensued around him.
Orcs met the rest of them upon a bridge of thin ice. Fenix and Kraiven made coordinated, sleek work of them with mace and blade. Their heavy bodies thudded upon the ice, causing it to crack. Godric and Erik advanced swiftly, hoping to avoid the hazard. But Godric knew it was not the only danger. The ice creeped toward heat…and drained a man of life with its cold.
The woman simply watched as Wilhelm’s frustration elevated. She seemed distracted, almost uninterested. She glared at Fenix and finally, after pondering, spoke.
“I will leave you to your…family matters, Wilhelm.” She tripped over her words as she walked toward the cavern’s bright exit, "Do be sure you take care of them.”
She sashayed through the opening, almost disappearing on the other side of the glare. Her hand then appeared again, reaching back in to the cavern. After a “come hither” flick of the wrist the snow surrounding the door trembled and jutted high into the cavern in a wall of thick ice. The opening was sealed and the cavern made slightly dimmer.
Wilhelm had had enough. He raised his hands and looked to the cavern’s ceiling. A loud, thundering crack sounded as an ice formation the size of a pine tree fell. It splashed heavily into the frigid body of water and began to fall toward the men below.
Johann did not allow it. Flames erupted from his hands, perfectly executed and bright as a star. The snow lit up by his power and the structure of ice became warm rain. Wilhelm could only stand powerless below him. Shock set in his eyes as no words came from his gape.
The warmth brought a new weakness to the icy bridge as the final orc fell. It shattered beneath him, leaving Kraiven only half-footed on the ledge and Erik to be drenched in the river of slush. He held on to the same ledge, refusing a full a dive.
A hand of ice erupted above him that grasped Kraiven. It squeezed with an arctic pressure, but cracked under the picking of his dagger. Then a bash of Fenix’s shield made a worthless frozen stump out of it. Wilhelm was surrounded.
He erupted in a freezing cloud, but then took hit after hit as he bled and burned.
He gazed one last time toward his brother as Johann’s ball of flame engulfed him in a bright flash. He was serene and accepting. His form became only silhouette…and then ash that snowed into the stream to rush away.
All that remained was a staff he once wore on his back and a garnet upon a chain. It sat upon black snow. A staff of Fiery Might for his brother. A gift for his partner in conquest. Johann picked it up and sighed a steamy breath. He looked back to a red stone sat where Wilhelm once stood and reached for it. Each member of the party felt suddenly as if they were somewhere else…
The cold and snow faded away and flames crept in. They all sat in a trench eight feet deep that ran as long in each direction as they could see. Men sat beside them. They cried for their wives, their mothers, their brothers and sisters. They clutched their swords to their chests and prayed to their respective gods.
They heard the deep whistle of a large projectile rush overhead. A flaming boulder crashed merely yards away, barely missing their position.
The fear was real. The heat was real.
A figure walked calmly from the explosion toward the trench. He stood above and gazed down. His deep black cloak covered his body and face. His breath slowly steamed from his hood as if it were cold again. Behind him burned the city of Irith, collapsing in on itself. The ground at his boots and directly ahead of them became bodies and skeletons. The sword in his hand ignited in flame.
A blink and a man knelt before the cloaked figure, but faced Blackwater. His hair was long and white and his armor once shone, but it was dull then with a crack running through the wolf’s symbol on his chest. He clutched a stone in his hand that dripped blood upon what was again scorched earth.
The cloaked figure took the man’s head with his fiery blade.
He uttered a coarse whipser that was unintelligible.
But the snow returned. The cold returned. They were back in the frozen chasm overlooking what remained of Wilhelm’s ashes.