We reached Sparks without much difficulty, but it was too late in the day to collect the needed supplies. I found us a restaurant to eat at and despite that it was all bone and corn meal foods, it was filling and it gave Ethon a chance to see the town people in a controlled atmosphere. I almost could not stop laughing as the food came and he did not know what is was. I ate silently as I watched him take long slow bites, trying to eat it without being rude.
“It’s all most of these places have for food. The water has a little bit of radiation in it, but someone created a way to clean the water so the water is at least clear. Most of what we will find out of town won’t be like that. Think you can stomach it?”
He nodded as he used the water to wash down the last bit of his meal. “So-”
The doors to the restaurant slammed open, causing the entire place to fall silent. I turned to see who it was. There were three huge males blocking the doorway, the lead one scanning the room. I stood up, making myself their target if they were looking for a fight. Ethon tried to stand but I motioned for him to stay down until I knew their intent.
“It’s her!” One of them yelled, pointing at me.
“I’ll come outside with you, as long as you leave the rest of these people alone.” I needed these people to give me jobs to survive, so I wanted to keep them alive as long as possible.
I looked to Ethon, and smiled, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of them.” I walked towards the doorway, leaving coins on the table to pay for the meal.
He stood up and yelled to the lead male, “Who are you and what do you want with her?!”
I smacked my head with my hand and turned to the lead male, “He’s new here and doesn’t know. Let his ignorance protect him.”
The three males ignored Ethon and I watched as an elderly lady walked over to him. She smiled, “Don’t worry, she will be back in here to stare at your handsome face after she defeats them.” She wrapped her arm around his and led him to the window, “You can watch from here, boy.” She sat him down and gave me the thumbs up.
I nodded and stepped outside to thirty paces away from the large males. I yelled so that everyone on the street could hear me, “These three gentlemen have been looking for me and want to play. I suggest everyone on the street to get into a safe place.” It took a little less than two minutes for the street to clear. “Who sent you and what do you want?”
The lead male called back to me, “The traders you killed! We are here to avenge their deaths and to continue business without fear of retribution.”
“Tell me where you take the slaves after you sell them and I might let you live long enough to tell your boss to leave me and this town alone.” I grabbed the handle of my whip.
Another of the males laughed, “You’re just a puny little bitch. What makes you think you can win?”
“I killed five of your cohorts, so far. Do you really think that you scare me?”
“We aren’t shifters, witch.” The third answered.
“I’ve killed over three-hundred people since I’ve started being a mercenary. Again, I ask, do you think that the three of you scare me?” I cracked the whip on the ground, coating the area around me with ice. I knew that Ethon was watching, but if I wanted to live, then I would have to use my Ice. I glazed my gauntlet over, creating a set of five ice claws. “If you think you can win, come and get me.” Snow started to gently fall around us.
The three looked at each other and ran towards me. The third males was faster than I would have thought possible, telling me he was a Speeder. I cracked the whip on the ground again, adding another layer of ice, until it was thick enough to handle weight. The Speeder hit it at full speed and slid. I created spikes on the bottom of my boots and waited until the last second to jump out of the way.
I rolled and stood up to find myself bound with spider silk. I looked to the second male, where he blasted me with another hit of spider silk from his hand. I smiled, “A spider?” I froze the spider silk as the lead male tackled me to the ground. I used the force of the tackle to break the spider silk into bits and pieces. It shattered around us and he pinned me to the ground.
I tried to use the claws, but he pinned my wrists above my head and the claws were aimed in the wrong direction. I kneed him in the crotch, causing him to cry out in pain. He fell to the side of me as the Speeder regained himself. I saw the water trough behind me and grinned.
He ran to me as I ran for the trough. I cracked the whip and created another patch of ice. He looked down to see it and ran around it. He did not see me tip the trough over and icing the water as soon as it reached his ankles. I heard him scream as the ice trapped his feet and his legs broke from the momentum of his speed and sudden stop.
One down and two to go. I did not notice the spider silk around my leg until the Spider lifted me into the air. He slammed me into the ground and though I protected my head, the wind was knocked out of me. He lifted me back up and over to where he was standing. I coughed and tried to see straight, but he slammed me into the ground again. He lifted me a second time and I was looking at him upside down. “Not so tough now, are you?”
I spat on him, flinging a piece of ice into his eye. He flung me away from him as he growled in anger. I froze a small piece of the spider silk but held onto the part that connected to him. I wrapped it around the ankle of the lead male.
I created a blizzard around us, removing his ability to see. “You think that hurt? The wolf puppies hurt more than that did.” I watched as he flung the lead male and slammed him into the ground multiple times. I built a tall skinny icicle and on one of the slams, the lead male was impaled on the ice spike.
I walked towards the Spider and grinned when he saw me. He pulled his spider silk back towards him and saw the lead male with the ice spike sticking out of his chest. He dropped the male and abandoned the spider silk that held his comrade. He tried to shoot another one at me, but I was the faster shooter. All five of my ice claws hit him before the spider silk covered half the distance between us.
The blizzard became a happy snow fall with the flakes fat and gently falling to the ground. I saw the Speeder and walked over to him. I released him from the ice and grabbed him by the collar. “Where are the slaves being held? I can either show you mercy, leave you here to die from pain and shock or I can ask for a healer. The choice is yours.”
He looked into my ice eyes and shivered. “They are being transported to the mines. I don’t know where, I swear!”
“Who is your boss? And where can I find him?”
He gulped, “He’ll kill me!”
“I’m the Ice Queen and I won’t just kill you, I’ll torture you first. Now, who are you more scared of?”
He looked directly at me, “His name is Kristofer and his base is in Raindrop.”
“Are you the last trader in the region?”
He nodded. “Yes, Ice Queen.”
“Then I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll have someone heal you and you tell your friends and your boss that if I find anyone conducting slave trading in my region, I will hunt them down. Do you understand me?”
He nodded, “Yes, Ice Queen.”
“Good.” I set him on the ground and called out, “Myrtle! I know you are still here! Heal him so he can warn his boss to never come back here!”
The elderly lady dragged Ethon with her, using him for balance. “Don’t tell me what to do, young lady!”
I stuck my tongue out at her, as she healed the Speeder. “Do you want any more slave traders coming here? He’s going to make sure that it doesn’t happen anymore.”
I watched as the Speeder’s legs were repaired and the skin knitted back up. She used Ethon to stand up, and looked to me, “If he doesn’t follow through with his word, I’ll stop his heart.” She smiled as she patted Ethon’s arm. “Thank you, young man for giving this old woman some balance. But I think you need to warm her up a lot more if she is going to become more than the Ice Witch.”
Myrtle hobbled away as Ethon stared at me. I picked the Speeder up, “For warning, she meant what she said and she will know if you complete your end of the deal. She created something that will kill you the second your boss comes back here. So, you better be persuasive with him. Now go!”
I watched the Speeder as he ran back towards the town of Raindrop. I grabbed papers from my envelope and collected the blood. I froze them like before then walked back over to Ethon, who was staring at the snowflakes. I wrote the crimes in my book and stuffed them all back into my bag. “Now you know.”
“You… lied to me.” He spoke each word deliberated and slowly.
“Yes, I did. What would you have done if I told you the truth?”
“I would have completed my mission and been back to where I belong.” I watched as the fire built around him and I took steps back.
“What do you think your uncle would have done when he realized that I can’t make water!? Did you ever think of that?! I’m Ice! Cold, hard and destructive! He would have killed me or put me in the mines, where I would have died, because I would have fought! Yes, I lied to you! I did it for self-preservation! And if you can’t see past the blind loyalty you have for your uncle, then you should just go home!”
He grabbed my arm, burning me. “I’m not leaving without you.”
“You might be the Fire-Bearer, but I don’t back down from anything. And you think you might have the upper hand by melting my Ice, but I’ve dowsed bigger fires than you!” I ripped my hand away from him. “Ethon, go home. There’s nothing for you here and despite trying to help you see the world for what it truly is, you can’t-no, you won’t learn. Go back to your Tower, because I would rather die than be delivered to your uncle. Can you kill, Ethon? Because I can and will to protect my freedom.”
“You’d kill me?” He was shocked and I could not figure out why.
“You’re damn right I would. Even with feelings and emotions, I would kill you without blinking if it meant that I would stay free. Go tell your uncle that I died when the bandits killed my family. Continue the lie and since I have no reason to go near the Capitol, he will never know better.” I backed away from him more, before his fire got too close to me and burned me more.
He turned and stomped away from me. He threw words over his shoulder at me, “You better keep your head down or you really will die, Ice Bitch.”
I felt the ground underneath my feet become ice, the happy, fat snowflakes changing to mini-icicles. The ice melted around his fire, protecting him, but allowing me my rage. I wanted to throw something at him, but could not afford to lose anything else. Instead, I turned away from him and stomped out the other side of town. I had a job to do and without him, I did not need to wait until morning to gather supplies.
I grabbed the compass from my bag and tried to wipe the frosted glaze off of it, but it was no use. I stopped where I was and took a deep breath, held it, and then released it. I repeated this process for about ten minutes before I was sufficiently calmed down to use the compass. I licked the dew off of it, tasting the sweet clean water. I dried it with my cloak and looked at it. “I’m looking for the jewel in the Angel’s hands.” I told it and the needle started to spin wildly. I waited until it pointed directly to my left.
I followed the path the arrow was pointing, as it weaved through the landscape. I passed forests, meadows and rocky ledges. As the sun fell, I found a cave in the crevices in the rocky areas. I used my bag as a pillow and my cloak as a blanket. I knew that in the darkness, I would be hidden with my dark cloak. I took a deep breath and fell asleep.
I awoke with the sun, stretching as I climbed out of the fissure. I popped my back and lightly stretched as much as I could to prepare for the walks ahead. I did not know where this Angel with her jewel was and it could be days before I found it. I took a bite from one of the Mr. E bags that I brought with me. The bread was tough, but it gave me the energy I needed to find this item.
I grabbed the compass and looked at its unerring arrow. It pointed straight up the mountain and I sighed. It was going to be a long day and though the climb did not look too hard from where I was at, it was a long ways up. I walked to the base of the part that starts going up and checked the compass again. It still pointed towards the rock face and I sighed as I put it into my bag. I started the climb.
At first, there was a path, created by water and animals from long ago. Then I reached where there were the giant boulders. I hopped around on them, instead of trying to climb a straight line through them. I finally reached the base of the cliff face. I checked the compass and was happy when it pointed to my right. I walked along the cliff face until I found a cave.
I stepped into the cave and was surrounded by darkness. I reached for my lighter, but forgot that I gave it to Ethon. “Stupid male…” I sat on one of the rocks near the entrance, waiting for the sun to pass over the mountain to provide some light. Hopefully, it would be enough to see farther into the cave. If not, I would have to navigate by touch and that would take a lot longer than I wanted.
I looked out across the landscape, the wasteland. I could see Sparks in the distance and a few strands of trees, where forests used to be. I tried to imagine what it looked like before the bombs hit, but could not really knew the beauty of it. I closed my eyes and then opened them, and where I saw the dead forests, I pretended they were full of leaves and life. The meadows had grass and flowers and the winding path I used to climb up here was a small mountain stream that fed into a pond in the meadow.
I blinked with tears and the image was gone. I hoped to create that scene again, one day before I died, I wanted to see the land to where it was supposed to be. It might take my entire life, but it was my dream. I stopped fiddling with the pendant around my neck and realized I had been since looking out at the landscape. It glowed with its inner fire and I turned towards the darkness, noticing the little bit of light that came from its heart.
I turned away from the cave entrance and walked deeper into the cave, using the pendant’s light to help me see, my eyes adjusting to the slight light. I ducked down and the cave’s path lowered until I had to take off my cloak and bag. I took another bite of Mr. Es, using this point to take a small break. I left my bag and cloak at the entrance of the small opening, hiding them behind a rock. Tucking the pendant into my tunic, I had to crawl through cold mud until it opened up into a large antechamber with numerous tunnels. I held the pendant close to the compass and followed the arrow to the tunnel to my slight left.
The pendant did not give a lot of light now, making me think that it needed to be charged by sunlight. I took a step and felt nothing under my foot. I used my weight to throw myself back onto solid ground. I took deep breaths to try to calm myself down. I used the dimming light of the pendant to see that compass was pointing me forward.
I created a couple layers of ice around the pendant, trying to amplify the light. “This sucks…” I stood back up and used one of my feet to probe forward, before using my Ice to create solid ground under my feet. After about fifty feet of treacherous air, my probing foot found firm ground. I looked back at my ice bridge, the dying pendant illuminating the fractals in the crystals, the bridge glittering. I touched the ice bridge and added arm rails to prevent me from falling off of it if I needed to move quickly.
I followed the compass and found a large room. The pendant’s light died and I felt like I had been walking for hours. I sat on the ground and looked up. Only darkness stared back down at me. I curled up into a ball, wishing I had my cloak and my bag with Mr. Es. I fell asleep from exhaustion, before my stomach had a chance to grumble with anger at me.
I woke up to the chamber glowing with blue light. Sunlight streamed through the blue crystals that covered all of the walls of the large chamber. It was beautiful, and I was awestruck. I took the pendant off and set it where there was a patch of direct sunlight. I walked around the chamber, lightly touching the walls, wishing I could stay in this beauty forever.
A red glint caught my attention from the blue tinted light. I walked over to where I saw the glint and saw a small piece of red sticking out of the ground. I dusted the area off, and realized it was a jewel. I used the compass to confirm and as I set it right on top of it, the arrow spun erratically. I kneeled down and set the compass on top of my legs. I dug around the red jewel and found that there was a stone hand holding it. I dug around the stone and unveiled an Angel statue that held the red stone.
I touched the Angel’s stone face and felt like crying. I do not know what came over me, but I had to dig the rest of the Angel out of the dirt. I continued digging until my fingers bled and my nails were destroyed. It took most of the day to completely uncover her. I stood her up in her six-foot glory and then looked to the center of the chamber. It took me a second to realize that the patch of sunlight was in the direct center of the chamber.
I iced up the floor under her pedestal to the center of the room. I gave my boots ice spikes and dragged her along the ice. She was heavy, but I refused to give up. Something told me she needed to be in the center and I had to get her there, no matter what. I went to her other side to push and after a couple minutes, she was moving easily. I saw tan arms wrap around her waist, pulling her. I jumped bag and reached for my whip, but I forgot I left it outside the crawlspace.
Ethon looked from around the other side of the Angel, “I can’t move it on my own. Hell, I can’t even get grip on this ice to move her.”
“Get off my ice and lift one of your boots.” He stepped towards where I was and I gave him spikes to walk on the ice. “Other boot.” I did the same for his other boot and he walked back on the ice. “Ready, set, go!” I pushed as he pulled the stone Angel towards the center of the room. It took a while, but she finally stood in the center of the room, after Ethon grabbed the pendant off the ground to prevent it from being crushed.
I removed the ice from under her feet and she sank into the ground until her pedestal was flush with the floor. I turned to Ethon, “Why are you here and how did you find me?”
He tossed the pendant to me, “Myrtle yelled at me. She said I was being unreasonable and that if my life was in danger, she asked if I would have lied as well. As for finding you, that thing is connected directly to me, so I can find it anywhere.”
“If you think that I’m going to let you take me-”
“Stop!” He yelled, then more calmly, “Just stop…” He scratched his head in embarrassment and frustration. “Look, originally, I was planning on taking you in, but within a day, you took what I thought I knew and flipped it over its head.” He looked at me, “More than that, though. What you said about my uncle bothered me. Not because I don’t believe it, but because I’ve seen it and I want to stop him. I think I can help the Rebels defeat him and I want to try. All my life, he’s done horrible things and I looked the other way because he is my uncle. While you were fighting those guys, Myrtle told me how you were hunting down slave traders and those who would do harm to innocent people.”
I did not know what to say, so I stayed quiet. He continued, “I’ve seen the slaves in the Towers and never thought anything of it, until I met you. You opened my eyes to the painful truth and as much as I hate it, I’m glad someone showed me. Moe than that, I’m glad the Water-Bearer showed me.”
I spoke up at this moment, “I’m not the Water-Bearer. I wasn’t lying when I said she died. When my family was killed and I almost along with them, something in me broke. I became cold and no matter how hard I try, I can’t create water.”
He thought about it, as he stepped closer to me. The spikes had melted under his feet and when he stepped on the ice, he fell on his butt. I watched as the warmth radiating from him turned the ice into water. He noticed it too, “With my Fire and your Ice, we can make Water!” He exclaimed.
I thought about what Enki said about how I made myself cold and I sheltered my heart from other people. Looking at the male who was sprawled on my ice made me start thinking. “You promised to teach me emotions…”
He nodded, “That I did.”
“That includes love, yes?”
I watched his whole body light up with hope, “Yes…”
“How do you know if its love?” If he could teach me about it and I found it, then maybe I could use it to create Water.
“Put the pendant on, because we are losing our light.” He told me and I put the cord over my head. “Do you want to discuss this here, or back at your vault?”
I looked up at the red jewel in the Angel’s hand and then to him. “I have to get this down before we go anywhere. It’s what I’ve been looking for and Mikala is awaiting my call to get it.”
“You can’t call her in here?” He asked.
I shook my head, “I need an open sky to call her.” I tried to reach the jewel, but it was raised up just out of my reach. “I can’t reach it.” I looked at him still sitting on the ground, “Can you?”
He scrambled to stand and tried to reach it, but it was outside his reach as well. “That doesn’t make sense. It was literally just outside your touch and I’m tall than you, so I should have been able to touch it.” He knelt down and interlaced his fingers, “I’ll give you a leg up.”
I disliked the idea, but I needed that jewel for Mikala. I stepped into his hands and gained an extra foot of reach. It was still just outside of my reach. I jumped down, “No luck. It’s like the statue grows as we tried to reach it. Any other ideas?”
He shook his head and shrugged. “I got nothing.” He sat back on the ground, and the last of the light from the sky was gone, leaving us with the pendant for light, unless Ethon wanted to light himself on fire.
I circled the Angel, trying to see how to get the jewel. I saw faint carvings in her stone dress. I put the pendant light closer to it, adding ice to intensify the light coming from it. I saw stars and the moon all over her dress. I looked to the Angel’s face again, “Ethon, give me a leg up again.”
He stood up and helped me gain the extra foot to see her face. I used the pendant to see the crown she wore around her hair, the stars and the moon creating a circlet just above her brow. I looked to the ceiling and iced up my gauntlet. I took careful aim for where the patch of sunlight was able to penetrate. “Get ready, Ethon.” I shot a single large piece of ice towards that spot and heard the shattering of crystals overhead.
“The hell?” He dropped me as he lit himself on fire. We were able to see the crystals as they fell towards the ground. We each used our powered to knock the falling debris away from us.
He tackled me to the ground as a large piece of crystal fell on top of us. I caught it with an ice shield, but it was melting quickly. “Ethon, cut your fire off!” Darkness filled the cave, especially under the shield I created, the crystals blackening out everything.
Ethon held onto me, not wanting to let go. “Are you alright?”
It took me a couple times to get my voice to work. “Yes.” He was too warm against me and I was starting to burn up. “Hot…” The heat coming from him became too much for me and I felt suffocated. My last thought was reinforcing the ice shield and calling for Mikala, before I blacked out.
“Eirlys…” I heard a voice in the distance, my body feeling heavy. “Eirlys, wake up!” The voice sounded closer, but I did not care. I felt light but heavy and it was an interesting feeling. I felt lips press to mine, but instead of pushing whoever it was away, I could not move. I recognized that sweet heat and the person it belonged to. It took too long for my mind to send signals to my body.
Slowly, I was able to open my eyes and see Ethon staring down at me. He was covered in glistening sweat and it took me a long time to notice his shirt was gone. “Wha…?”
“You passed out. I don’t know why, but you mumbled something then you were gone.” He moved slightly away from me.
I tried to sit up, but he stopped me, “Not yet. You’ve been out for a couple days now.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “Don’t pass out again!”
“Headache.” I opened my eyes to see that we were back in my vault. “Vault?” I looked at him, my body still burning up, but not bad enough to become unconscious.
He answered, “After you passed out, I slowly cleared the crystals away from your ice shield, melting it as I went. I looked up and saw the night sky, stars and moon and everything. You destroyed the entire room and the Angel was now standing in the open air. She dropped the jewel and I grabbed it for you. You cracked the entire cave, including the part where we had to crawl. I was able to carry you out. Don’t worry, I grabbed your stuff before leaving the cave. Mikala was at the cave entrance. She teleported us both back to here and took the jewel. She returned a few hours later with your reward. She didn’t say anything, but her eyes accused me that I caused your blackout.”
“Hot.” I told him as I pulled the blanket down and realized I was nude under it. The cold air touched my skin and I felt better.
Ethon looked away, his face red, “She stripped you and put you in bed, while I warmed some water.”
I flipped and laid on my stomach, pulling the blanket up to my mid back. I had enough skin in the cool air to start to cool my entire body off. After feeling a lot better, I spoke, “I was burning up.”
He looked at me, “You mean that she was right and that it was my fault?”
“Partially. Exhaustion, hunger and the heat. The heat is what threw me over into darkness.”
“You really are an Ice-Bearer.” He sounded stunned. I felt a warm hand touch my back, and I knew what he was looking at.
“These aren’t from lashes, but the fights I’ve been in.” He was staring at the hundreds of scars from being a mercenary. His touch was feather-light and warm but not suffocating hot.
“How could someone do this?”
“Same way that you had lash scars. Not all people are good and when dealing with the evil ones, you come out of it hurt.” I yawned, “Warm…”
He kept rubbing my back, “The rub that you gave me, has anyone else given you one?”
At first I was not sure how to answer, but I was too tired to lie, “Once. I fell out of a tree when I was younger and my mum rubbed my back to help the bruises heal.”
I felt him straddle my butt above the blanket and his warm hands glided up and down my back. There were a few tender points, but nothing like what I had found in his back. I heard the vault door open and slam shut, but I was too tired to do anything.
I saw the Wind-Bearer standing in the doorway, her jaw dropped. “What in the!?”
“Era, this is Ethon, the Fire-Bearer. Ethon, this is the pain in the ass, Era.” I yawned again.
Ethon smiled, “Hello, Era. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Era could not find her words, “He’s. Wait. What? How?”
“Use your words, Era.” I mumbled to her. “He said that he wants to help the Rebels and I know that you can get in touch with them.”
That knocked her back onto her heels, “He wants to help?”
Ethon got off of my and grabbed my hand to force me to sit up. I used the blanket to cover the important parts. “Yes, I want to help. I’ve seen what my uncle has done and I want to fix it so that everyone can live better lives.”
Era looked at me, who yawned again, then back to Ethon. She composed herself, “Well, then, Ethon. If that’s true, then the Ic- Eirlys is correct. I can help you get in touch with the Rebels, but realize that you will undergo tests to see if you are just spying or if you truly want to help.” She looked at me, “Eirlys, you really should get dressed when you have guests.”
“If they would learn to not walk in uninvited, then I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Anyways, since you still think that I’m a failure, I’m going to leave you two to get better acquainted in my living room.” I pushed the two of them into the living room and noticed how Ethon looked at her. I shut the door between my room and the living area. I climbed back into bed and pulled the blankets to my shoulders, “Guess he likes her. Glad someone does.” After a few minutes, I fell asleep, leaving the two of them to discuss whatever in the living area.