The Dragons of Ice and Snow (2 page)

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
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He had
sent out a large group of air elementals similar to Aeris to search
the world for survivors of the dragons' attacks. That was how they
had discovered the small groups that had been fighting to adapt to
the new reality of life after technology.

Simon was
sure that there were other pockets of humanity around the world, but
he had concentrated on the ruins of the great cities as a place to
start. The last of the elementals to report back had come from the
former country of Russia.

The air
elemental had told the wizard that a handful of Changlings were
hiding and fighting back against the white dragons that had claimed
Russia and the rest of northern Europe as their own.

The
primal white dragon had originally destroyed, not only Moscow, but
the rest of the Russian cities as well and then had retreated to the
far north, leaving its servants to clear out the remnants of
humanity. They had been very efficient.


I
searched all of the cities in that former country, sir wizard,”
the elemental had told Simon. It had taken the scout more than two
months to complete its task. “I found no other survivors except
for a half-dozen on the edge of Moscow.”

The
Russians were led by a woman and the scout confirmed that the leader
was a paladin, a warrior blessed by the old gods of Light.


She
had powers of some sort?” Simon had asked excitedly.


Indeed
she does. I saw her lay her hands on one of her followers who had
been injured in a fall. The bones knit and the skin closed while I
watched. It was...impressive, I would say.”


And
this paladin wants to meet me?”


Yes,
sir wizard.”

The
elemental had drawn an amazing likeness of the leader of the
survivors and presented it to Simon.


Her
name is Liliana. She will receive your call if and when you wish to
contact her.”

The
wizard had thanked the scout for the fine work and released it back
to the realm of air.

He had
immediately used the Magic Mirror spell to call the paladin and had
been impressed by her sense of purpose and authority.

Liliana
confirmed that she and her little band were striking back at the
white dragons when and where they could, but needed all the help that
they could get.

Simon had
arranged for a meeting and received the coordinates for a spot on the
northern edge of Moscow where he could use the Gate spell to
transport himself, Kronk and Aeris.

Unfortunately,
when they'd arrived, it had proven to be a trap.

Simon
spotted a dark line ahead, rising out of the lake like a mirage. It
pulled him out of his bitter memories.


Is
that the shoreline, Kronk?” he called weakly.


Yes,
I believe so, master,” the little guy said over his shoulder.
“We should be there in a few minutes.”


Good,”
Aeris said with some relief. “Then we can find you some cover,
my dear wizard.”

Simon's
answer was cut off by a distant, echoing cry from far behind them. It
reverberated across the frozen lake and sent a shiver up his spine.


Dragons,
master,” Kronk said, stating the obvious.


Yes,
thank you,” Aeris replied dryly. “We never would have
figured that out.”

The
little earthen gave him a sour look and turned back to continue
leading their retreat.


I
still don't believe that the paladin and her people set you up,
Simon,” Aeris told him as he floated along beside the wizard.
“It is quite possible that they were followed to the meeting
place and driven off before we arrived.”

Simon
sighed with what little breath he had left.

He wanted
to believe that. He really did. But when the Gate had dropped them
knee-deep in crusty snow and a lesser dragon had swooped to attack,
it had certainly felt like a setup.

Thankfully
he had reached a point in his magical development where casting his
Shield spell was now almost a reflex. He had cast it without thinking
as a blast of freezing air pounded down from above and blew Simon off
his feet.

The
elementals went flying. Kronk skittered across the frozen ground like
a hockey puck on ice and Aeris shot away as if he'd been hit by a
truck.

Neither
of them was hurt, fortunately, and recovered quickly enough to get
back inside the wizard's shield before the dragon banked around for a
second pass.

The beast
had been a pure, blinding white, scales reflecting like mirrors in
the bright winter sunlight. Fifty feet in length, the dragon was
horned and fanged and altogether a creature out of legend.

It was
also furious and bellowed in rage as its breath was reflected by
Simon's shield.


Move,
master!” Kronk had screamed. “It is going to smash you!”

The
dragon was arrowing out of the sapphire sky and looked like it was
indeed going to slam straight down into the wizard.

Simon
knew that his shield couldn't stand up to such a tremendous blow and
looked around frantically for some sort of shelter.

The area
that they had Gated into, on the outskirts of Moscow, was surrounded
by the ruins of old office buildings and warehouses. Gutted by fire
and frozen in the bitter winter, they loomed like the skeletal
remains of dinosaurs, twisted and grotesque.

The
wizard had spotted the twisted open doors of an old loading dock. The
darkness inside offered at least temporary shelter and he took off
running, calling for the elementals to follow him.

He leaped
into the cavernous building just as the ground convulsed with the
impact of the dragon's landing. Another blast of sub-zero breath
shuddered the air behind him as Simon ducked to the right and rolled
into cover. A decrepit iron staircase hung drunkenly against a far
wall and he pounded up it, trying to stay upright as it swayed
alarmingly under his feet, squealing like an injured animal.

Kronk and
Aeris were hot on his heels, the earth elemental's tiny stone feet
ringing on the metal steps as they reached the second floor of the
warehouse.

It was
dark and still in the depths of the building. Mysterious machinery
and abandoned packing crates were scattered randomly in Simon's path
and he had to creep cautiously around these barriers to avoid making
any noise.

Above
him, the corrugated metal ceiling was warped with extreme cold and a
huge icicle, six feet long and razor sharp, hung threateningly from a
hole that had been smashed through it.

The walls
and floor were covered with frost and patches of glittering ice,
making movement difficult and treacherous. Simon crept slowly in the
semi-darkness, searching for cover.

From
outside, the sounds of the dragon's rage had faded away and the
wizard had the uncomfortable feeling that the beast was listening
closely, trying to discern his location so that it could tear through
the walls of the building to rip him apart.

He
crouched down behind a heavy press of some kind and gestured for the
elementals to huddle up close.


I
think it's waiting for us to make some noise,” he whispered to
them.

Kronk
nodded silently, his red eyes wide.

Aeris
hovered next to Simon's head and glanced past the wizard in the
direction of the dragon's location.


I
think you're right,” he muttered. “Any suggestions on our
next move?”

The
wizard slipped Bene-Dunn-Gal off of his back and gripped it tightly
in his gloved hand. Even wearing his thick, fur-lined coat and
gloves, the cold was quickly seeping into his body and Simon began to
shudder with the chill.


I'm
not sure,” he replied softly. “Why isn't that thing
tearing this place apart? It's a big building but it couldn't stand
for long against a dragon.”

Kronk
looked around and pointed at several parts of the room.


This
entire building is made of metal, master. It is dense and frozen.
Even a dragon could be injured forcing its way into this place;
perhaps mortally wounded.”

Simon
nodded as he looked at the thick steel beams that criss-crossed the
ceiling.


Good
point. I wonder what they made here, back in the day?”

Aeris
snorted softly.


Something
dangerous, I would guess. Perhaps weapons of some sort?”

The
wizard crept over to the nearest pile of cardboard boxes and peered
into one. It was empty and unmarked, giving no hint as to what it had
been meant to hold.


Whatever,”
he muttered. “But now we're at an impasse. We can't leave and
the dragon can't reach us. Maybe I should just Gate us home and try
to figure out what happened?”

Kronk
nodded vigorously but Aeris' expression was doubtful.


What?”
Simon asked him.


I
just thought that we should try to find out what happened to the
paladin and her people. They aren't here, obviously. They might be
injured and need help, if they survived at all.”

The
wizard sucked on his lower lip and stroked his staff unconsciously.
There was still nothing but silence from outside.


Or
they set us up,” he said quietly.


What
do you mean?”

He
shrugged.


We
arrived and were immediately attacked. What are the odds that a
random dragon was just flying overhead as we Gated in? Slim, I would
say.”

Kronk was
watching the two of them silently, but became thoughtful at Simon's
statement.


It
is possible, master, but I would hate to think that. A paladin would
never ally with the dragons. They are evil, pure and simple, while a
paladin is sworn to light and goodness.”


Unless
she was perverted by the dark gods,” Aeris said ominously. “Who
knows what's been going on in this desolate place over the last four
years?”

Simon
began to speak but was cut off by a high-pitched, screeching cry. It
echoed and shivered in the frigid air around them and reminded the
wizard of claws grating across metal.


What
the hell was that?” he whispered frantically.


It...sounded
like a summons, master,” Kronk said.


A
summons? Oh, wonderful,” Aeris replied with his usual sarcasm.
“Maybe Simon's right. Gate out and rethink this whole thing.”


Hang
on,” the wizard hissed, holding up a hand. He frowned as the
air in the room suddenly became even colder. He could actually hear
the frost on the walls snapping and cracking and watched with a stab
of fear as it thickened and spread, creeping like a living thing up
to the ceiling and down to flow across the floor.


What
the hell is going on?” he whispered, his tongue tripping on his
words as his shivers became more violent.


Master?”
Kronk reached up and touched the stiff sleeve of the wizard's coat.
“You are shaking badly.”

Aeris
watched Simon with sudden alarm.


We
have to get out of here,” he told them. “The dragon is
doing something, lowering the temperature. Our dear wizard will not
survive for long in this place.”

Simon was
having trouble thinking, his body wracked with increasingly violent
shudders. But through the cold, a sudden idea popped into his mind
and stopped him from casting his Gate spell.


I...know
what it's doing,” he gasped, his lips numb with cold. “It
wants
me to try to cast something. Dragons can sense magic. If...”

He
dropped Bene-Dunn-Gal and rubbed his face with his gloves for a
moment, trying to warm it.


If
I cast anything, it will smash through the walls and crush all of
us.”

There
was a moment of silence as the elementals absorbed this idea.

Simon
picked up his staff again as he waited for any suggestions from his
friends.


By
the Four Winds,” Aeris said with a touch of despair. “You're
right. That's exactly what it's doing.”

He
rose up toward the ceiling, quickly scanned the room and then dropped
down again.


Over
there,” he pointed toward a far corner. “There's another
door. Perhaps we can put enough distance between ourselves and that
cursed beast to give you time to
cast a Gate spell.”

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
2.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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