The Dragons of Ice and Snow (4 page)

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
9.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads


No time for
sight-seeing. Let's get out of here before its fellow shows up behind
us!”

Aeris shot by the wizard
and led the way. Simon and Kronk followed as quickly as they could,
the wizard still in shock.

A scream of rage and the
continued sounds of destruction indicated that the first dragon had
heard the short battle and was frantically trying to make its way
through the warehouse.

The trio ran. Beyond a
line of low buildings, Simon spotted a vast, frozen lake. A freezing
wind blew clouds of snow and icy mist across it, obscuring his view.
Aeris looked back at him and pointed toward the glassy surface.


If we go that way,”
he called, “at least the beast won't be able to see us.”

Simon nodded.


Go, go,” he
yelled and ran down a mild, snow-covered slope and on to the surface
of the lake.

The ice looked slippery
but was rough from the constant grind of frozen particles being blown
across it by the relentless wind and Simon found the footing to be
more stable than he'd imagined it could be.

It was just as well. As
they disappeared on to the lake, behind them came such a shriek of
rage and loss that the wizard clapped his hands to his ears. The
first dragon had found the body of its companion.


We're almost to the
shore, master,” Kronk called back to him and Simon shook
himself out of the memory of their escape from the white dragons and
focused on the view ahead.

The lake ended at a rocky,
uneven shoreline. Beyond, the ground rose up sharply, drifts of snow
and humps of rock giving it an alien, forbidding look.

As the trio approached it,
the wind lost its power and became more of a stiff breeze. It was a
relief to Simon, who was managing to stay warm only because of the
constant running he'd had to do.

When they stepped off of
the frozen lake, the wizard stopped and bent over, hands on his
knees, to catch his breath. Aeris and Kronk waited for him, the air
elemental bobbing in the breeze and watching their rear for any
pursuit.

Kronk looked at Simon
anxiously.


Master, how are you
doing?”

The wizard held up a hand,
asking for a moment. Drops of cold sweat fell from the tip of his
nose and cut holes into the snow underneath him.


I'm fine,” he
said finally, panting, and stood upright painfully. “But if we
don't keep moving, I'm going to stiffen up and start to freeze.”


Don't you think
we're far enough ahead of the dragon for you to cast the Gate spell?”
Aeris asked him. “I don't see any movement behind us yet and we
haven't heard the beast for a while.”

Simon turned and looked
back at the lake. The wind was still blowing snow and mist
horizontally across it and they couldn't see more than a hundred
yards in any direction.

Above them, the sky was
obscured by low scudding clouds and the sun was hidden.


Okay, let's give it
a try. We should be safe for a few minutes anyway.” he said and
slipped a hand under his coat, looking for his spell-book. He frowned
as he groped inside his robes, checking each pocket.

The elementals watched him
nervously and, as Simon began to search ever more frantically,
exchanged a look of concern.


What's wrong,
master?” Kronk asked.

Simon looked at him,
wide-eyed.


It's gone,”
he whispered.


What do you mean,
it's gone?” Aeris asked as he floated closer.


I mean it's not
here. I must have dropped in when we faced that dragon. Or when we
were running toward the lake. Or whenever. It's just...gone.”


But, master, I
thought you had the Gate spell permanently memorized?”

Simon groaned and covered
his face with his hands.


I did. But I'd
added so many spells to Bene-Dunn-Gal, including that one, that I
just let it fade from my mind. I never thought I'd need to keep it
locked in my head again.”

When he lowered his hands,
Simon saw Aeris glaring at him, hands on his hips and bobbing in the
wind.


I told you, didn't
I? Didn't I tell you? Don't depend on that staff, I said. Always have
a backup plan, I said. Never...”


Be quiet, Aeris,”
Kronk snapped at him. “Our master doesn't need to hear 'I told
you so' right now.” He looked at the wizard. “What spells
do
you have memorized,
master?”

Simon stared at him
blankly and the little earthen moved closer and tugged on his coat.


Master, please. You
can regret later. We must get you under cover before you freeze to
death. Now, what spells?”

Kronk's matter-of-fact
tone cut through the wizard's wave of despair and he gave himself a
little shake. Aeris was still glowering at him but kept quiet.

Simon shuffled through his
memory.


Okay. You're right,
Kronk. I'll kick my own butt later. Um, well, I've got the Light
spell. And the Shield spell, thankfully. I have both Magic Mirror and
Magic Mouth memorized. My fire-starting ability is always with me
now. And...” he barked a dry laugh, “Sparkles. Stupid
spell. I can't seem to forget that blasted thing. That's about it.”


Lovely,”
Aeris said disparagingly. “All very useful, I'm sure.”

Kronk ignored him.


Follow me, master.
I can lead you to that cave entrance. At least you will be able to
get out of the wind.”

Simon had begun shaking as
soon as they had stopped their run across the lake. He nodded
jerkily.


Yeah, I guess
that's our only option for now. Go ahead, my friend.”

Kronk spun around and
began to climb the steep slope leading away from the shore. The snow
was caked in layers from months of winter storms and he tip-tapped
across the top of it with ease.

Simon followed slowly, his
feet crunching through the crust of snow. Fortunately it wasn't deep.
His legs were aching within a few steps and he began to sweat again.

At least I won't freeze
right now, he thought glumly. He still couldn't believe that they
were in this situation.

No spell-book. No
Bene-Dunn-Gal. He was weaker than a novice wizard now. Why hadn't he
kept more useful spells memorized?

Well, after this, I'm
definitely going to nail more of them into my brain, he thought,
angry at himself. If I survive.

He climbed and slipped up
the rugged slope. It leveled off somewhat, eventually, but still led
upward. Barren hills could be seen in the distance, snow-covered and
silent. That was the way that Kronk was heading.


Any idea how far it
is?” Simon called.

The earthen looked over
his shoulder as he kept moving forward.


Not far, master.
Perhaps a mile. The ground is broken and uneven but you should reach
it in about a half-hour.”


Good. That's good,
Kronk. Thanks.”

The little guy waved and
kept moving.

Aeris flew up on Simon's
right. His disapproving expression had faded and the wizard noticed
him glancing from left to right, scanning the area in front of them.


Looking for
something?” he asked the elemental, feeling a little
breathless.


Yes. If we want to
keep you alive, my dear wizard, then we'd better find you something
to burn. As an elementalist, you can still start fires with your
mind, so let's use what magic you do have instead of pining for what
you don't.”

Simon looked at him in
surprise and Aeris smiled hesitantly.


I was wrong to
berate you,” he said quietly, after a quick glance at Kronk.
“While I didn't approve of that staff, it destroyed itself to
save your life. And it isn't your fault for depending on it so much.
Wizards back in the old days did the same.”


Did they? Well,
that doesn't make me feel any better about my own stupidity, but
thanks.”

The wizard looked across
the bleak landscape.


I don't see any
trees or bushes anywhere. There may be no fuel around.”

Aeris sniffed a bit.


There is bound to
be something. Keep following Kronk and I'll see what I can find.”

Before Simon could answer,
the air elemental shot off up the slope and disappeared.


Um, okay. I'll do
that,” the wizard muttered to himself.

He continued to slog
along, tripping over loose rocks and slipping on patches of ice while
Kronk tramped steadily onward. By the time the little earthen came to
a halt and stood waiting for him, Simon was aching and sore in
muscles he never knew he had.


Please tell me
we're close,” he said to Kronk as he staggered up to where the
little guy was standing. He pulled off a glove and wiped the sweat
from his face.


There, master,”
Kronk said with a wide smile.

He was pointing to a
misshapen pile of rocks that loomed ahead. To Simon, it looked like
every other heap of stones that lay scattered across the dead-looking
landscape.


Really? That's it?”


It is, master.”

Kronk looked around
curiously.


Where is Aeris,
master? He should be watching your back.”

His tone was one of
disapproval.

Simon smiled weakly.


He's looking for
some wood. I doubt if the cave is heated, so he's trying to get me
something to burn so I can keep warm.”

Kronk's eyes widened.


Oh, master! I
completely forgot about that. Aeris is right. What good is finding
shelter if you freeze to death?”


Don't worry about
it, my friend. You have your job to do, so Aeris is doing something
useful as well. Now, let's get to that cave, shall we? I'm feeling a
little exposed out here, now that there's no blowing snow to cover us
from any patrolling dragons.”


Yes, master. Follow
me and I'll get you to safety.”

Kronk headed off again and
Simon followed as quickly as he could. It wasn't very fast; his legs
were stiff and his feet were so cold now that he couldn't feel his
toes.

The little earthen
disappeared around the pile of rocks and the wizard slipped and slid
down a little slope as he circled the stones. At the bottom of the
slippery dip in the ground, a low opening, no more than four feet
high, led into darkness.


Is that it?”
Simon asked dubiously as he stared at the small hole.


That is it, master.
Do not worry, it opens up after a few yards inside. It also drops
quickly, so I suggest that you might want to crawl when you enter.”


Not much choice, is
there?” Simon said, grumbling. “Fine. Go ahead, I'm with
you.”

Kronk nodded and entered
the opening. The wizard took a final look around, hoping to see any
sign of Aeris, but there was no movement except for some swirls of
snow, and he shrugged and slowly got down on his hands and knees.

Yeah, this looks
dignified, he thought to himself with a self-deprecating chuckle.

Then he reluctantly began
to crawl into the darkness, keeping his head low.

Inside, the opening turned
into a small tunnel and Simon had to squeeze and squirm his way
through the narrow path. He bumped his head once and stopped, little
bursts of light flashing behind his eyes.


Damn it,” he
whispered as he rubbed the top of his head. He waited for the sharp
pain to fade a bit and then crawled on.

Kronk had been right. The
tunnel dipped sharply and then turned to the left. The ground was
smooth and dry but Simon could feel the coldness of it through his
gloves.

I hope Aeris finds some
wood, he thought nervously. I'm not sure that freezing to death would
be preferable to a quick death from a dragon attack.


Just up ahead,
master,” Kronk's voice echoed from below.

Encouraged, Simon
increased his pace, careful to keep his head down as he went.

Finally, the wizard
crawled out of the little tunnel and felt free air above him. He
quickly cast a Light spell and a globe of pure white appeared above
his head, illuminating the area almost as brightly as sunlight.

He stood up with a groan,
his head throbbing and his entire body weak and shaking.

Kronk was standing nearby,
smiling, and he spread his little arms at the cave around them.


You made it,
master. It would be very difficult for a dragon to reach you here.”

Simon looked around,
wincing at the stabbing pains in his lower back. And then his pain
was forgotten as he stared at the area in amazement.

The cave was no more than
ten feet high but sloped gently away from the entrance. It was big,
many yards across, and the far end was shrouded in darkness.

BOOK: The Dragons of Ice and Snow
9.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Light and Wine by Sparrow AuSoleil
Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros
BLOOD RED SARI by Banker, Ashok K
Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury
Bounty by Harper Alexander
Strangers From the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno
Rio Grande Wedding by Ruth Wind