Ulek shook himself with fury, the newly formed crystals of ice that sheathed his body sending waves of pain throughout his dwarven limbs. “By the eyes of Moradin,” he muttered, “I’ll not fall from the elements.” His hand glowed hot red and raw where he gripped his axe. Nothing to do but get warm with battle, he thought.
The seven Stones looked toward the passage that lead to the east, their eyes squinting and tear-filled against the blinding light that filled the cavern like the gaze of a vengeful god. Already the gaping hole in the floor before them had begun to turn to a slushy scab. The fierce, unnatural cold made quick work of the frothing water and begged it return to the sheet of freezing mirrors, to join the rest of the surfaces about the cavern in their bid to fill the halls as bright as Lathander’s heart.
“There,” Alaina said as she pointed off toward the east. “The light dims.” The adventurers stepped past the shaft of light that smote the ground near them with its brilliance. Alaina dared a glance up and regretted it at once. She rubbed her eyes as globes of yellow and white danced about the insides of her eyelids.
“She speaks true,” The druid whispered. “Where the hall travels the light does not follow. I suspect darkness. No shafts from above to blind us, yet no darkness will.”
Once again the druid and the massive Mizziark blinked away some unnatural pain. Both spoke to the others of an unseen hand that opposed them, the Great Oak and the Earth mother seen as enemies in the hall.
“I’ll be taking the lead, as is a true dwarf,” barked Ulek as he stomped off. “Better’n to my liking, be these halls without the hard drip of the Frostmaiden. But I’ve only to see, as the rest of ye cannot. Maybe I’ll whet the edge of my mistress’ lips on a few of those bastards afore you come wreck my fun.”
The group marched on, a hundred feet east down the corridor as the light died behind them and a natural staircase came into view. Up the steps and further on straight went the dwarf, as Timault paced him a few yards behind, the feet of the lanky half-Calashite stepping toe first and revealing no sound.
The hall broke open into a wide chamber that dove down into the stone and ice of the mountain. Had there been the light, as before, the dwarf would have been stricken sightless. Every surface held its skin of ice. Each nook and cranny held the Tears of the Frostmaiden on its face, on its edge, as if it were made of her hoary skin. A massive pillar, a natural formation that dominated the center of the cave, seemed to hold the ceiling in it�s delicate hand some sixty feet from the floor.
“The druid whispered a few instructions of how he�it�would communicate, as the hands of the Great Oak shaped his living clay once again into the form of a small snowy owl. The owl soared off into pitched darkness. Each swoop and glide was wrought with the unknown. He alit upon the floor, his talons scrabbling for purchase on the ice that covered it. He quickly returned.
“The darkness fouled my attempt to reconnoiter,” he said to himself as he returned. He convinced the group that they must forge on, though, his wing and nod dance granting them insight as to what lay ahead.
“Two stairs,” Ulek said. “One to either side. They are steep and treacherous. Oooh, t’were me, this’d make a fine place to meet unwanted guests.”
“Let the hardiest head down, then,” Yearing offered. “The bows and spells will reach well from the ledge and the stairs.”
“Would reach better if it weren’t for the damnable spire,” said Timault.
“And if there�s more water under that ice, I’m doomed to sink with my sword. I’ll not chastise you with its origins. Let that be written in our songs.”
They started their way into the chamber. Rhaynoss flew again, this time flying to the far side of the column.
A dark, feminine voice echoed throughout the chamber.
“You’ve the reek of the South on each of you. Especially the tree-priest.”
Coins alit with arcane and divine illumination flew. Their light illuminated the floor and showed the Seven Stones its crystalline surface. Dark shapes writhed and swam beneath it.
“Who are you” a voice from their group cried.
“To come into the Womb of the Frostmaiden, one would be a supplicant to her mercies or an enemy. And I tell you we have smote mountains. A group of intruders is sure to fall to her winds.”
Rhaynoss and Mizziark felt the blast of her evil and fought for composure. Each saw a tragedy upon the earth in the darkness, felt the abomination in her breath, and heard damnation in her words.
The battle began as though a crack of fire powder had been hurled at a frozen flask. A pair of wolves appeared, flanking a woman whose skin spoke of sleepy, hypothermic death, yet whose hip was graced by a ring of fire upon a whip’s lash.
Arcane words barked through the air. Yearing’s spell of suggestion was shrugged away as the woman slammed her foot down upon a keystone of sorts, sending the crystal column collapsing into the icy water below.
The Stones retreated as the column collapsed, wary of being pulled into its deafening vortex as it fell to the waters below. Arrows flew from the bow of Timault, one striking neatly in the thigh of the woman.
Rhaynoss flew to the platform upon which the woman stood and coughed a brutal incantation; a mist enveloped the wolves and the woman.
The column at last disappeared into the chill froth, yet the gaping hole that remained vomited a half-dozen of the frozen lizard men, their tribal forms scurrying from the water as rats from a rising flood. They stood in a stance of contempt.
Ulek, Heinrich and Alaina rushed to meet the lizard men.
Screams poured from within the mist as Rhaynoss’ spell revealed it’s murderous claws.
Yearing melted and reformed, the strength and countenance of an ogre stomping across the ice to raise his comrades upon the dais to fight.
The winter wolves threw their horrid, arctic breath upon the heroes.
Timault cursed the druid for obscuring his quarry.
The screams of the woman disappeared into the darkness.
Alaina charged and stood solid as she warded against the winter wolves.
Lizard men fell and died.
Rhaynoss’ hands waggled with incredible speed and a column of fire stabbed down where the ice column once stood, throwing the lizard men to the water, and nearly Ulek as well. The lizard men died and the stones surrounded the wolves and smashed them with fury