Part 2: The Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on Fire…
The Roof was an open air auditorium with sloping seats and a large central stage. Each of the stone bench seats was Yyan sized so at first the heroes wondered why a strange staircase led downward to a flat surface. It was only looking at the entire top floor did they truly understand this place.
From the elements carved into this floor of the tower, Grim could tell (comparing it to the scroll work translated for him by Bry and Bliss at the Transit Point), this tower had originally been designed by the Warmonger’s Servants to capture, contain and possibly wound the Ancient Evil know as Xephon of the Sky. But that had been its designed use at the height of the K’ias Wars, and now it was nothing more than a relic of old times.
Its power over the air above it was immense, holding and shaping air currents with enough power that it was like being in the eye of a tornado. Here it was calm, but looking over the side there were gale force winds.
The amount of supercharged wild Air Leyas here also explained to Lurtor instantly why Warmonger had sent his Ice General and not his Air General. Even a powerful Aeromancer could suffer burn out trying to use Air Leyas up here. The Cloud Slavers were probably protected because their species evolved on the dimension where Air Leyas is most abundant.
But Lurtor, Grim and Nuria knew they had no such luck.
That was when Belinda Frost finally noticed them. She was hidden by a strong igloo, but they could hear her voice from inside.
“You murder-hobos killed my family, you kidnapped my nieces and nephews. You sick monsters have unleashed an army of killer clones, and imprisoned my old friend Bysos Borak for no crime other than getting hired by people you don’t like in an area you decided to take over!” roared Belinda Frost as her aura raged, “And no amount of money or apologies will give me back those people I love, or the months I was trapped wandering the ice alone. Those months of loneliness, and hunger, where I barely survived.
When the only two settlement around are the ones that killed your family, what do you do then???
That is when your only choice is to become an Outlaw…
I was lucky to have Snowy Touch save me, and showed me the way to survive in the harsh terrain.
But I was luckier still when Queen Unixah gave me the path of Warmonger, and the tools to hurt you the way you hurt me.”
It was Eli who stepped forward this time. He had a genuine look on his face, and his voice rang true as he spoke, "One, I’m not sorry. Got no time feel sad.
Two, grow up. You, me and the rest of these people I’m with have been played ever since got here by Warmonger.
Third, your family is fine and taken care of. I’m serious. ”
Eli points outside and turns back to Belinda. She was about to say something rudely about the storm winds making it impossible to make out who the little ants down on the ground floor are, when Lurtor raised a hand and used technomancy to enhance the images showing Buffy next to Molly, with the crowd of the Frost Mercs standing behind them.
Eli saw a glint of sadness and hope in Belinda’s eyes and he pressed on,
“You, disappeared for a couple of months and become the Queen of Cloud and Ice.
You are poised to end most life on Refuge. Dancing to the piano strings of some ancient evil so it can get it’s jollies off, because it didn’t get enough hugs when it was a child.
That’s not you. You have a family."
His expression softens.
“I’m no good with children. Ask my wife. Then again me and she, not so good with our child.”
“Screw you Eli,” was heard outside the tower.
“I mean we have my was-dead boring Aunt Maud from another dimension, and her pacifist widow-wife Lilth from this dimension taking care of the little brat,” Eli shudder.
Eli held his head. “Egh, pacifist… that’s not right. Plus that red beard gog immutable we hired to bodyguard our child because of killer Hitlers…”
“Danm it, focus Eli. It’s not about you,” was further heard outside.
He looked back to Belinda. “Hell, ask Molly what a screw up I am. The past can not be changed. Only learned from.”
“Your family is back. You’re powerful as hell. You got more options.”
“Work with us instead. You’re not an outlaw, you’re not a tool and you’re not dumb. You have great potential. Can set you up nice place for a settlement. You and your kin could sit pretty there. New future mayor of McGraw Harbor bears you no ill will. Also, got a friend who can help you cope with the horrors you went though.”
“Not a bribe. The Glacial Wastes needs more stable leaders. Better direction.”
“Anyhow, whatever you decide, don’t be Warmonger’s pawn. Be your own person. Belinda you know what is right.”
They could not see Belinda, she was inside the igloo, but they could hear her breathing. And they could hear when it seemed to calm.
The igloo melted away, and Belinda stepped out. She looked Eli in the eye, and she could tell he was being honest. She wiped a tear away from her eye, and as it fell it turned into a hardened crystal ice droplet.
She gave a near smile as she looked off at so much of her family looking okay. She searched the faces for Boz Frost, but he was no where to be seen, but she did recognize Bysos Borak among the crowd.
A small sniffle and then Belinda’s gaze became hard again, but not at Eli and friends.
“I accept your offer and what comes with it,” Belinda Frost said, “Unixah has gathered an army of White Furs, all former members of the Hobtla Mag’ol. She has indoctrinated them into her twisted mixture of the Warmonger Cult and Morgothianism. She said has renamed these White Furs as Headhunters and plan on sending them against your settlements at the height of the storm and the height of the Sea Kings invasion that will be timed to follow the storms devastation.”
Snowy Touch stepped out from the shadows, his spear pointed at the heroes. The little white fur placed himself between the four and Belinda, as if he were trying to protect her.
“Do not tell them such things!! Belinda, if Unixah learns you said these things, she will kill you or worse. Plus these people are the evil ones. When they attacked my first mistress Drella, they took away her power over the Leyas. They will do the same to you!! Don’t trust them, especially that one,” Snowy Touch said as he pointed to Grim, “He is the one that shot mistress Drella and she is probably wasting away in their prisons.”
Grim looked at Snowy Touch without malice, “The Illuminated that you followed was released back to her people. Since the conflict we had with the two of you, we realized that we had just been reacting blindly, instead of thinking. We have tried to make amends.”
Snowy Touch’s spear wavered. It dipped low, its End of Worlds claw-blade cutting deep into the ground like a hot knife dropped on butter.
Grim looked Belinda firmly in the eyes and said "Queen Unixah was just the king’s bodyguard when last we talked to her. She wishes to rule these lands in the name of the Warmonger.
Ask yourself, Why did she give you power and point you at us? Is it because she is afraid of the fact we will not bow to her rule? That She would rather use you as a Catspaw then to risk herself and her followers?
Yes, We were wrong to treat you and yours that way. But your nieces and nephews have not suffered in their time with us. In fact, Eli’s wife has been working with them to help them regain the ability to tuen back to their original forms."
“IF you must kill someone to slake your anger, kill me. In fact, kill me once for every member of your family that you feel I’ve harmed. But leave innocents out of it and call off your army of IceGuards. Their attacks endanger your family and nieces and nephews. Don’t become a monster that would endanger your family. Don’t be what you accuse us of being.”
Belinda placed a gentle hand on Snowy Touch’s arm, and the Olgog sheathed his spear.
“No more people need to die,” Belinda said, “Snowy Touch and Blizzard Blue are with me. They can come live with my family at this place that Eli described.”
“I think we can all agree to that,” said Eli feeling an overwhelming feeling of relief, “But before we go, do we have to do anything to shut off that storm?”
“Yes, I need to tap back into it and dissipate it. The pain and mourning of the Cloud Slavers are what I have been manipulating to power this storm.”
“Yes their Mourning Ritual,” agreed Lurtor, “I was wondering about that.”
“Unixah assembled all the rival White Fur leaders under Lost Icicle, and sent them all on a suicide mission against the tower. No support, no subordinates. Just a deadly charge to death by lightning,” said Belinda.
“Lost Icicle die the best,” smirked Snowy Touch, “He kill chiefs before he die. Made White Furs proud.”
“It also distracted them long enough to allow us to take the tower’s roof,” said Belinda, sounding less than proud about the white furs charge.
Grim worried that if the White Furs opposition leadership was gone, then only King Hobtla Mag’ol himself and Unixah were ruling. It would be a bad, bad time to be living in Hobtla Mag’ol. He also knew it would mean the flow of White Fur refugees would be cut off.