Legacy of Ice: Part Five
With a small sigh of relief, Rathua stepped out from the boulders. At last! He had finally left the maze... to find a barren land, with nothing but the smallest plants, and the great mountain looming ahead. It was starting to snow, too. Rathua had never encountered the substance himself, but some of the older citizens of Sakhmet had spoken of strange lands with this cold white covering. Taking a seat on a wide rock, Rathua found it didn't take long for the 'snow' to settle on him. He shivered, brushed it off, and looked around again.
There were several creatures making their way across the small plain separating the maze from the mountain. Rathua had never seen anything like them before - their fur was thick and white, to protect them from the cold, and small horns protruded from their heads. They appeared to be digging for food. As he watched, a spotted cat-like creature bounded over to them, and sniffed in the hole they had dug. It was quickly chased off by the horned creatures, who growled very loudly for their small size. The cat-like creature retreated to a safe distance, then started hissing insults at them in cat. The Ruki watched it, amused.
"We have nothing against you, you know."
The Ruki leapt to his feet, glancing around wildly for whoever had spoken to him. To his horror, a Dark faerie had appeared beside him. Her skin was a light purple, while her hair and eyes were darker. Her dress was long and deep purple, relatively unadorned. Leathery bat wings were folded neatly down her back. She was looking at him seriously. "You have nothing against me... What?"
"It's just that Wocky... She has no idea how important she is! She'll let this mountain fall apart, just to save herself a bit of work!"
"I don't understand you. Mist will let the mountain fall apart? But she loves it here..."
"It doesn't matter how much she loves it! She's the only person who can save the mountain, and she hasn't got a clue how to. Seeing as you don't seem to, either," the faerie added, seeing Rathua open his mouth, "shall I explain it to you?" When the Ruki nodded, she said, "Basically, there's a special bloodline that runs down through this mountain. Every so often, there's a child born within this bloodline that the Ice Spirits mark out. This child will then have to carry on what its mother or father, the last person marked out, did, which is to keep the Ice Spirits that watch over the mountain happy. In return, they get a few magic relics and all that, as well as a fair bit of power over whoever lives on the mountain, because if the Spirits aren't kept happy... tearing the mountain apart is well within their power. Now, you've probably guessed that Mist was marked out by the Spirits. The problem is that it's her parents that are meant to teach her what to do, and as they vanished a few years ago, there's no one left on the mountain who knows what to do!"
This information took a moment for Rathua to digest. Finally, he looked back at the faerie, to ask her about the details that seemed to be missing from this story.
"You couldn't just tell Mist, because...?"
"There still wouldn't be any point. Even we don't know what to do in the caverns where the Spirits live. They're barred to all but the ones the Spirits choose."
"Was it you who sent her to the desert? Who almost killed her - and us - with the fire on the plain, and the avalanche in the maze!"
"Like I said, it's nothing against you. We just needed to get rid of her. Then there would be none that the Spirits marked out left."
"And that... Would be a good thing?"
"Yes, it would actually. You see, when all of the ones they marked out are gone, they stop being so fussy. It just becomes whoever can get there next, and then the new bloodline is chosen."
Rathua saw their plot here. The Dark faeries loved power, and they would never be affected too badly by the destruction of this mountain. Those that lived on it would, though, and would pay the price the dark faeries named to keep their homes. "So you tried to kill Mist, so you could rule over the creatures of this mountain."
"Of course not! We're doing it to protect the pets that live on the mountain - With Mist alive, it will be destroyed!"
There wasn't much point in replying to this, as Rathua already knew it to be a lie. So he settled with another question: "Why are you telling me this?"
The faerie smiled brightly at him. "Because you're desert pets, of course! It gets very cold up that mountain, and we wouldn't want you to freeze for no reason. As you can see, there's no point in taking Mist further."
Before he could reply to this, Rathua heard stones shifting behind him. He turned to see what caused the disturbance, and felt air batter him as the faerie took off. Flame came up behind his brother. "Rathua! I finally got out! It was hard going, I tell you, and my wing didn't help either. It's not broken, but it still hurts a lot... What is it?" The Scorchio realised his brother wasn't listening, and looked at his brother, concerned. The Ruki was staring at the space where the faerie had been, eyes dark with worry.
"It's... There was a dark faerie here, Flame. She talked to me..."
"I don't believe she was trying to save us the effort, Rathua."
"No... I don't either. But then, why did she say it?"
Flame was now sitting beside his brother on the stone. Rathua had told him all that the faerie had said, knowing that the Scorchio would be able to help him work through what the faerie had said to find the lies.
"I think... That she told you everything to make that last lie seem probable. Which means that they really don't want us to go up there, which means..."
"That there would be a way for us to save the mountain if we got up there," Rathua finished.
Flame nodded. "So there's still a good reason for us to keep going."
"Should we tell Mist? That it was the dark Faeries that tried to kill us? And that she has to save her home?"
"...If we need to, badly, we can tell her. But for now..."
Rathua nodded. "Alright." They both sat down to wait for their friend, losing themselves in their thoughts.
Mist sat down on a low rock beside her, exhaling heavily. She had been taking more and more of these rests as she progressed. It seemed as if the path she had been following was determined to send her to every corner of the maze, and in more than one place she'd been forced to climb over some lower boulders when larger ones blocked her path. That wouldn't have been so bad, but paws made from ice can't get a very good grip. She thought she must be nearing the edge, though, because the mountain ahead towered above her, and the rocks were fewer and less tightly packed.
After a moment, she groaned and stood up again, feeling sore all over. She wasn't used to travelling so far. The furthest she'd ever been was halfway into this maze, and that hadn't taken very long at all. She continued through the maze, her steps soft although the wind had died down and the silence didn't seem quite so ominous. Rounding another corner, she saw to her delight that no more rocks stood ahead of her, just soft white snow, and her mountain. Her home...
The Wocky bounded out of the maze, and despite herself, rolled onto her back, lying on the snow and enjoying how cold it was. She picked herself up again when she realised neither of her companions were with her. A quick glance around showed that they both sat deep in thought near a different exit from the maze. She skipped over to join them, oblivious to how concerned they both appeared to be.
"Look at the snow! It's so wonderful - fresh and cool! Have you ever seen it before?"
As she spoke, she watched them and seemed to understand that neither of them was especially light-hearted at the moment.
Rathua looked up at her with some surprise, as he hadn't noticed her approach. The smile he gave her when her replied was genuine, though. "Never before, though we've heard of it. It's too cold for us, though!"
Flame was just watching Mist, a calculating expression on his face. The Wocky, anxious to be home, didn't notice it. "Can we go? I know the way from here, and it shouldn't take too long..."
Both desert pets got to their feet and looked up at the mountain. Flame nodded. "Let's go..."
To be continued...