Legacy of Ice: Part Four
Spirits were low as the small party watched more and more of the grassland succumb to the blaze. They sat between the two boulders that marked the entrance to the maze, the cold, bare earth below them promising to keep them safe from the fire. The flames had already taken the place where they had slept, the tree still hosting some smaller fires in its crown. The tree's trunk was black and charred. They had reached the entrance to the maze well ahead of the fire, and they all knew they should have gotten started travelling though it. But with the dawn light casting ominous shadows everywhere, even watching the plain burn was preferable to entering the maze.
So they had simply sat down outside of it, to wait for the maze to be illuminated better.
With a sigh, Rathua got to his feet and turned around. Mist and Flame did the same, although they made it clear how much they didn't want to. The maze before them looked ghastly. The cold wind had howled around them since their arrival at the entrance, and though the sun was now shedding a fair amount of light on the burning plain behind them, the towering stones ensured that long shadows covered the ground in the maze.
Rathua led the way in, Mist and Flame following him closely. They moved through the maze in silence, none of them wanting to attract someone - or something's attention. About a quarter of an hour in, movement caught Flame's eye, and he spun around to look at it, fear making him break the oppressive silence with the sharp swish of his tail. Mist, walking beside him, stopped instantly and grabbed Rathua's arm. She looked with wide eyes first at Flame, and then, still not daring to speak, at what Flame had noticed.
It wasn't as bad as she had expected. A woman, standing on top of one of the taller rocks, looking out over the maze. Mist dismissed it as nothing that would hurt them, and she turned away from the figure. She looked from Rathua to Flame, both of them watching the woman warily. Mist didn't understand it - what was so bad about her?
Her mind flickered back to what Rathua had told them as they watched the plain burn - that he had been bored and decided to have a look around. That he had walked over the rise, seen the start of the fire, and beside it what could have only been its starter. That the figure by the fire had cackled and flown away on bat-like wings. That there must be Dark Faeries working against them.
True enough, as she realised what the woman on the hill must be, the figure raised her hands and screeched! The faerie took to the air laughing wickedly, as the three travellers looked at each other desperately. What had she done? The air grew still again as the faerie departed, leaving the small group looking around for some trace of what she had wrought. A low rumbling split the air, growing louder and seeming to get closer. All three looked, too late, at the mountains surrounding the maze; boulders rolled down them in multitudes. The first of them crashed into the maze, setting more rocks moving, a horrible domino effect.
Mist couldn't help it; she screamed. She spun around and dashed down the path, Rathua and Flame inches behind.
Terror gives your feet wings; Mist, Rathua and Flame were all running at an amazing speed. However, the boulders of the maze were closely packed together, leaving only the thin, winding paths, that earned the place the title of maze, between them. That meant that the chain effect moved through the maze quickly, much faster than any Neopet could possibly run.
"Rathua? Have you got any great ideas now?" Flame yelled as the huge stones around them began to fall towards them.
"RUN!" The stones on either side of them were leaning in on their path, and all the ones behind had already fallen. Two paths led off from theirs up ahead, and it was clear they would have to take one as ahead of them rocks fell further and further forwards. With a last burst of speed, Mist flung herself down one of these paths, then tripped and fell; Rathua dodged down a path, skidding to a halt before he hit a huge pile of fallen stones. Flame, as a last resort, struggled to take to the air. He meant to fly just above the falling stones, but a rock crashed down, clipped him on the wing and sent him spinning through the air. He hit the ground with enough momentum to carry him forward several feet - just enough to get him out of the way, although one wing was now bleeding and useless.
There was a great crashing sound, but it moved on quickly, becoming a low rumble in the distance once again. As it faded altogether, Mist picked herself up. She had dodged down one of the side paths. The stones down the path she had chosen had already fallen when she ran in, explaining why she hadn't been crushed. Rathua's was the same. Flame had been thrown forward, further along the path, landing painfully atop a boulder as it fell, and crashed down with him. All three picked themselves up from the rubble, and looked through the carnage to find that they were blocked off from the others.
"Mist? Flame?" Rathua recovered from the initial shock first, and he had gotten through unscathed, and his first concern was whether or not the same could be said for his companions.
"I'm here, but a rock hit my wing... It's hurt, but I don't think it's broken..." Flame's voice came back to Rathua first, as shaky as the Scorchio himself. A few more moments passed, and Rathua called Mist's name again.
"I... I'm here... That...That was..." The young Wocky had never seen anything like it before, and had never really been in such danger before. It was the first time she had ever truly feared for her life.
"Are you alright, Mist?" The desert pets called to her simultaneously, concern showing in both their voices.
"I'm... I'm not hurt. Just... scared..."
Hearing she was alright, Rathua gave a small sigh of relief. Normally the Ruki would have made helping to calm Mist his first priority, but right now they needed to get out of the maze. "Flame, are there any paths near where you are? There's a fairly wide path over where I am."
"There's a small trail over here. It looks like it'll lead me straight out, but there's a lot of rubble in the way, so it might take me awhile to get out anyway... It's completely blocked on both sides though, so I might get stuck around a dead end..."
"Mist? What about you, can you see any ways out you could take?" Rathua knew he could get out, and Flame assumed he could, but it seemed like none of them would be able to able to reach each other until they got out of the maze. assuming they all could.
"Everywhere around me's covered with broken rocks, and other fallen ones... It's not going to be east footing going anywhere, but I can use the mountain to show me which direction I should be going in..."
"We'll all have to make our own ways to the exit then," Rathua said decisively. "We can meet up again at the base of the mountain."
Mist and Flame called their agreement, and then there was nothing but footsteps and the shifting of rubble as they began to make their separate ways through the maze. Rathua stood where he was for a moment, thinking longingly of the desert and the warmth there that this weak sun could not provide... But it was only for a moment, and then he set off along his path.
Flame sighed, pausing to feel his injured wing. It was bent at an unusual angle, and it still hurt a lot. He hoped it wasn't broken - they had nothing to splint it with. He grimaced, looking ahead of him to the distant shape of the mountain. It was going to be a long day...
Rathua hummed loudly, and rather tunelessly to himself. He had decided that the silence was far too ominous, and was now doing his best to break it as a kind of private rebellion. The sound echoed through the stones though, and Rathua realised that he would just be drawing things to him. Because there were creatures in the maze - he had seen their shadows moving between rocks, and once he though he had seen a bushy tail swish around a corner ahead of him. He gave up his humming, glancing around warily for any hidden predators, and continued along his path.
Mist clambered awkwardly over boulders, wishing she could get through the boulders separating her from an easy trail. She couldn't, though. There were slim cracks between those rocks, which just let her see the wide spaces beyond, taunting her. At one point she was sure she glimpsed Rathua making his way along the stony corridors, but it could have just been the shadows playing tricks on her vision. They did that, shifting constantly, creating small illusions of depth that constantly tripped her up. Pausing to look up, Mist was disheartened by how far away the mountain seemed. With a sigh, she squared her shoulders, ready to continue, and promptly fell off the rock.
To be continued...