He sucks the air through his teeth and bunches up the fur around his neck. The frigid lodge barely warms up, Fiel’s meager fire is not enough to fight the dragon’s icy taint on the ravaged home.
It’s eerily silent. No light, save for the little flames at his feet. Charred remnants of hunting trophies and everyday tools and bits of furniture lay discarded in or around the frozen fire pit, cast aside to make room for an effigy of the ice wyrm –which the norn promptly smashed before settling in.
The air is heavy, still like in a tomb. Even the wind seems to shun the dead place, despite the blizzard outside.
Dead place. Fiel chuckles bitterly at the thought. The corpses of the svanir are piled in the far corner, some pushed in front of the shattered door to block the snow. Not point in trying to leave right now, it would be suicide. Besides, the corpses don’t bother him. And he knows they won’t smell, at least. Most of their flesh was ice, now.
But there is something else besides the cold that is making his teeth shatter.
In his mad search for… something, Fiel had forgotten all about the date.
It is more pernicious than the elder dragon’s elemental cold, more subtle. A reach extending from the far South, running the tip of its claws on the back of his neck, whispering voicelessly into his ear.
It is an insidious lullaby than this deafening silence is susurring inside his mind. It talks of cold, of stillness, of darkness, it sighs as it tells of creeping fog, clattering bones and rays of moonlight, brighter and sharper than a polished blade. It lulls the norn to sleep with sweet promises, its breath smelling of fresh dirt, of wax and…
Fiel frowns, and sits up with a start.
The cold was making him numb, he nearly fell asleep. More importantly, in his semi-consciousness, he smelled it, smelled the syrupy sweetness in the air. It was gone now, and everything was drowned with the odors of ice, frozen meat and stale air.
Candy corn, this far North?
Did he dream it? No… he knew something attempted to reach out to him. He just knew.
Then how? He didn’t know the Mad King to bother terrorizing any creature outside of the human territories, and even then, only the ones near Kryta?
Madness. It begets madness, doesn’t it? And what was he, if not mad?
For days Fiel had been searching. Wandering aimlessly into Svanir territory, looking for a clue, a rumor, anything about the missing captain. He knew he shouldn’t have gone alone. He knew that. Yet there he was: waist-deep in snow and frozen corpses.
He was truly, hopelessly mad. Mad, and afraid. And in this critical part of the year, his aura was like a tuning fork, a song with which the Mad Realm would gladly harmonize.
At least, that’s what Fiel thinks. Perhaps he did just dream it all.
He pushes his fears away, grounds himself in the present.
Being here alone is stupid. If Ironwood had been captured by the Sons like he feared, he was not in this area. He looked. What he needed to do, was find Tove, find all the others, and organize a methodical search. Running around like a headless chicken in the snow would serve only to waste his time, and time is a luxury he –or the Captain– does not have.
But neither is mobility. Not until the blizzard blows away.
Nothing to do right now but wait.
Eloise caws grimly from the blackened beams overhead, then Fiel senses it.
Another shift in the air, this one more pressing, enveloping, urging. He knows the power that is now seeping into the old lodge. Had felt it, inside and out, many years ago. It is something he had come to know quite intimately… in Orr.
Fiel jumps to his feet as the sound of cracking ice begins to rise from the pile in the corner, and the barricade at the door. The bodies tremble. They jerk with a sickening crunch as they pry themselves from the icy ground, and from each other.
They were all still good and truly dead, one of them even partially decapitated, with the top of his skull cut clean off and his icy brains glistening in the tiny light, and the frosty marble of his popped eyeball stuck horizontally to the side of his rime-covered face. A few left bits of frozen flesh stuck to the ground, one even ripping his own arm off when it wouldn’t come loose, each stiff muscle strand snapping with an agonizingly drawn out tearing sound, before he could twist the bone off at the elbow joint.
“Right…” Fiel whispers. He briskly rubs his hands to warm them and takes hold of his sword, just as the icy cadavers were straightening themselves and taking arms whenever possible.
It was his fault, really. How could he have forgotten about the elder dragons and their habit of stealing the magic from their fallen kin?
Now in his folly he had trapped himself in a dark, icy lodge with about fifteen ice-covered Risen, going as far as blocking the damn door with them.
But the necromancer was not afraid.
“Come on, then, you frosty bastards…” he growls with a grin. “I needed to warm up anyway…”