IceBreaker

From: Andrew Joelson (joelsona@cpdmfg.cig.mot.com)
Date: Thu 15 May 1997 - 15:15:26 EEST


              The Last IceBreaker, Part XIV

    The hollri lay face down on the sward, it's right arm twitching
feebly. A streak of jagged splinters winking through the tall grass
was all that remained of it's left arm. Two more nearby streaks
marked the loss of it's legs.
    The Last IceBreaker stood nearby, leaning over his sword. The
hammering of his heart was gradually slowing, his ragged breathing
grew more regular. The ice demons had been true to their vows; each
had charged like a frothing uroxi as soon as they saw their predecessor
go down. Drel's healing powers had repaired what wounds they managed
to inflict, but Harlios had been pushed to the point of exhaustion.
This was the third hollri he had maimed, hoping to gain a brief respite.
But the others had died of their wounds. Finally, a few moment's worth
of rest.
    Harlios straightened up. He shook his left leg uselessly, the
pain seemed to be creeping slowly upwards. He limped in a slow circle.
His mended ribs still tingled, trails of blood ran down his limbs.
Fresh droplets trickled slowly from minor nicks, too small to warrant
healing.
    He looked over towards Hend Valindsson, and saw a many-jointed
creature holding out pieces of icy armor. It looked like a cross
between a huge centipede and Yara Aranis. Hend donned his harness
while a nine-foot hollri held his spear. Harlios looked away, the
spear hurt his eyes to see.

"Harlios," called Drel softly. "What is happening to your leg?"
"Fire seems to be clawing it's way upward."
"Is this the end, then?"
"I can't quite seem to catch my breath, no matter how long I rest.
Yes, I think it's almost over. Shall we say farewell to the Son of
Winter?"
"No," countered Drel. "I'd rather cut his nose off. We still
have a fair resevoir of magic left. Do we not have time left for one
last fight? Imagine what your sword would do to him."
"I don't think so. And besides, it occurs to me that Ichor would
probably not be at full strength against him. He is not a demon
after all. He is the child of a storm god, and some nameless darkness
spirit."
    Harlios paused, saying "I begin to feel weary, Drel. Empty and
hollow. Let it end." Ichor rose and fell. Harlios murmured under
his breath and turned away as Rashtingall cleared the Dueling Grounds.
He limped slowly towards Hend, his limp growing into a lurch along the
way.

    Hend looked up as he aproached. "Your limp seems much worse; I
think you have little strength left. That will make my task simpler.
Do not think that I pity you any longer. That foul sword was much
more than anyone expected from you. Trying to bring you before my
father alive is a luxury I will dispense with. Prepare to die."
"Stay a moment. Tell me of your spear."
    Hend hesitated, then continued to arm himself. "It is the spear
my Uncle Vadrus won from some nameless thane of Chaos. Valind gave
me leave to carry it, as my symbol of authority over all the host."
He held out his arm, and the centipede-thing circled it with its
ridged tongue. Saliva ran down it's tongue, and froze in place
around Hend's arm. The creature slobbered it's way from wrist to
elbow. Then it began again. Layer after layer froze in place, yet
when Hend flexed his fingers, it rippled like flesh. "Superior to
any enchanted vambrace," he said. "If I had faced Kalikos with such
arms and armor, it might have gone differently all those years ago."
"Tell me one more thing before we begin. Why?"
"Eh?"
"Why raid the Southlands? To raise such a great host, the domains
of Valind and Himile must be vast, and strangely fertile. At least,
fertile to such as follow you. What can you gain from the South?
Lands most of these creatures could not endure?"
"Vengence!" snarled Hend.
"That I understand, from the sight of your scars. But surely you
know that you could have been killed long ago? All the defeats you
have suffered were meant to fend off winter raiders. If you left the
South in peace, neither Kalikos would have come against you."
"Raiding my enemies is my birthright, bred into my very bones!"
"I feared it would be so," sighed Harlios. "This is the way
captured Orlanthi have spoken to me, in Dragon Pass. Every year a
cattle raid; but what for? The neighboring clans just raid right
back, and retake their herd. Sometimes they get more than they lost,
too. The cattle go back and forth, raid after raid, year after year.
The only predictable result is the deaths. The cattle don't care what
hillside they graze on! The only things that grow from this are
hatred, and graveyards. If the clans would only leave each other
alone, they would all prosper."
"I remember when Storm ruled all the world!" roared Hend. "Those
days shall come again! We raid to maintain our strength! To teach our
enemies the meaning of fear! And so we... What is happening to your
eyes?"
    Harlios met his gaze unblinking. "I don't know, what is it you see?"
"They begin to glow and flicker."
"Ah. That means we will vanish from your ken shortly, and leave
you empty-handed," Harlios replied. "I would laugh at you, but it hurts
too much."
"There is no escape for you. You have no strength to alter the
Will of the Winterking."
"Hah! we have spent all our strength. There is none left; that
was the whole point."
"I don't know what ruse you are attempting, but I will put an end
to it shortly," spat Hend. He glanced down at his arm, the armor was
frozen about a quarter of an inch thick.
"It is too late for that, Hend Valindsson. Have you not wondered
how I resisted the Jarl's aura?"
"Tell me, then"
"I swallowed a salamander. That is what you see behind my eyes."
"Impossible! It would have burned you away from within. Had you
enough Fire magics to ward off that end, you would not have needed to
swallow it. Tell me no more lies!"
"Heh, heh, ha," laughed Harlios, mirthlessly. "We have fed it on
our souls."
    Hend's eyes grew wide as fire began to flicker out of his enemy's
scratches. Little rivulets of flame licked down armored limbs where
blood had trailed but moments before.
"See the candle gutter and flare, before it goes out! Valind has
claimed my Callings! But he shall never claim my soul! There shall
be nothing left of it, all burned away! I defy Valind to the end!"
"I am the Last IceBreaker!"
"Remember me well, for I am unbeaten!"
"And now I claim my final victory; a endless, dreamless sleep!"
"EMBRACE ME, OBLIVION!!!"
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******
Andrew

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