Legacy of Ice: Part Eight
The wind roared, sending a blast of freezing air at the small group of pets travelling down the tunnel.
Rathua moaned at being exposed to more of this freezing mountain weather. "How can it be windy? We're underground! There isn't even a direct passage to the surface!"
"I suppose that the Spirits are sending it up to us..." Mist wasn't bothered by the conditions, but was finding it hard to keep her footing. Ice doesn't generally stick to ice.
"What, to test us, or to stop it coming?" Flame was nursing a large bruise on his arm, obtained when he had tried walking backwards to keep the wind ,
"I think it's just because they feel like it."
"Just because they feel like it? That tells you something about them..."
"They're going to tear the mountain apart because they've been a bit neglected. I think that tells you something about them."
The party continued in silence after this, as none of them had anything to say - or rather, that they wanted to say. They were all lost in their own troubled thoughts. Also, the floor of the tunnel was made of ice, and it sloped downwards rather sharply - walking required full attention.
Light along the tunnel wasn't a problem. Flame had lit a torch before they had entered, just in case it was needed, but there were brackets containing the enchanted wood all down the corridor. Along the walls strange runes were also etched. Flame peered at them, but couldn't make head or tails out of it. He asked Mist what they were.
"Um... I think Grandmother mentioned once... This mountain used to have its own language. Everyone who lived here spoke it, and it was written in symbols like this. But then the other countries came, and we adopted their speech - this one. No one can speak the old language anymore, but you do sometimes find these symbols in really old books, and on the walls of the older caves. At least, that's what Grandmother says."
"Can you read any of it?"
"Grandmother showed me what 'Wocky' was, but I don't know any other symbols. So not really..."
Flame quelled his curiosity for a moment, but these symbols intrigued him. "Who do you think carved these?"
"The person who dug out the tunnel, I'd imagine..."
Flame managed to missed the exasperation in Mist's voice as he asked another question. "How long ago would that have been?"
"I don't know, Flame! And I don't really care! I have other things to think about right now!" Mist snapped, turning to glare at the surprised Scorchio. She stalked on ahead, muttering to herself.
Flame, hurt, fell in beside his brother. "I was just trying to think of other things..."
"I know," consoled Rathua, ever sympathetic. "She didn't mean it. She's just a bit stressed, and with good cause. Ah! Is this it...?"
They had arrived at a great set of double doors, oak by the look of them. True to what Mist's grandfather had written, they were inscribed with symbols, which seemed to glow with power. Flame recognised them as being the ones on the tunnel wall, and wondered for the hundredth time what they meant.
Mist looked at Flame, shame showing in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Flame. I didn't mean to yell at you. I'm just a bit stressed about this. I want to do it right, and I don't know how -" She cut herself off before she got too emotional. "Thank you. Thank you so much, Flame, and you too, Rathua. Without either of you, I would never have gotten here. I would still be in that cave in the desert. Or the Dark faeries would have hurt me. You've helped me so much, I just... Thank you."
She sighed. "I'd better go and talk to these Spirits now, shouldn't I? I don't think you can come in with me either... Would you wait for me, though?"
Rathua smiled at her and nodded. Flame said solemnly, "We will wait for as long as it takes you, Mist. Good luck."
She smiled at them gratefully, and turned back to the door. She double-checked her grandfather's letter, to ensure she said the words right, and then spoke.
"I am the one you chose.
You chose my mother before me,
and her father before that.
Let me in, to the heart of the mountain,
So that I may confer with you
And keep this land at peace."
With each line, her voice seemed to go stronger, clearer. The runes on the door glowed brighter, and brighter... And then the light covered the doors entirely, and it seemed as if there was nothing left but light. Then the doors swung open, so slowly, leaving the way to the next room open. All Mist could see through the wall of light was darkness, complete and eternal. She would be walking though a door of light to a land of dark.
She took a hesitant step forwards, and then another... And then a piercing scream cut through the air. She looked around to see five dark faeries, besides themselves with rage, flying down the tunnel at top speed. Rathua and Flame drew their swords; Mist pulled out her Cobrall Dagger, given to her by Rathua such a short time ago. Rathua glanced back at her, and yelled, "Mist what are you doing? Save the mountain, we'll be fine!" As she watched a faerie hurled a ball of dark energy at the Ruki - he raised his shield seconds before impact.
Flame yelled to her while fending off spells cast by two other faeries. "Just go, Mist! Now!"
She raced through the door into the darkness.
Stillness. Utter stillness. As soon as she had crossed the threshold, she had felt nothing, seen nothing. She knew the door of light had slammed shut after her, because for the briefest of moments she had watched her friends fighting the Dark Faeries. They were doing well, holding their own, earning their places in the Royal Guard - but they were hopelessly outmatched. A ball of energy struck Rathua on the shoulder while he defended himself from the sword of another faerie. Flame fought with weapons against another two, throwing out the occasional fireball to help him. As Mist watched, a well-placed sword blow shattered his shield. The last faerie was standing calmly in the midst of all this, watching her with an awful look of absolute hatred on her face. Mist shivered. She was almost glad the door had slammed shut and cut off that awful look. Almost.
She sat on the icy floor, wondering what she should be doing. She called out tentatively, "Ice Spirits?" Once she had finished speaking a dim light appeared along the walls. It didn't flicker or waver, and as Mist watched the lights grew brighter. There were crystals embedded in the walls, and the Ice Spirits were using their magic to fill them with light. As the chamber lit up, Mist could see it was made out of ice, all of it. Except for the ceiling, which was... amazing. The ceiling was a crystal mosaic, the most beautiful thing Mist had ever seen. As she watched, it lit up too, casting a bright, pure light around the room. Where the crystals in the walls were all soft shades of red and darks pinks, the ceiling was soft blues, in swirling patterns and bright whites...
The tapestry! The ceiling was a crystal version of a tapestry, and as Mist watched it, its calming, cleansing effect began to take place. She felt calm, peaceful... She could lie down and take a little nap in this beautiful place... but she couldn't. "Ice Spirits? I need to speak to you!"
The voice came from everywhere and nowhere. It echoed out of the crystals and returned to oblivion. It scared Mist.
"Ah... Can you please... not destroy the mountain?"
"We would gladly keep the mountain together. But we made an agreement with you Neopets, eons ago, when you still spoke the proper Speech. And you broke it! Where are the gems that were promised once a month? The crystal shards, diamonds, sapphires? You broke that agreement. And we may have forgiven it, if our previous guest had come once a week, as we agreed! Come to clear the ice and snow away, come to keep our beautiful mosaic shining... Come to speak to us! But we were forgotten! And now you, young heiress, you come to me asking that all wrongs are forgotten?"
The voice echoed louder and louder as its unseen owner worked itself up. Mist had no idea how she could reply. She could make no promises she couldn't keep, she could make no fabulous excuses for what had happened - all she could tell was the truth.
"My parents, they disappeared. No one knows really where they went. I'm sure that the previous - heir? - my mother, did the very best she could, but something happened and she couldn't help it. This mountain is my home, and I'd do anything you asked if you could just keep from destroying it."
There was an awful silence, stretching on for what seemed like an age. And then the voice spoke one last time, and the words it spoke would never bee forgotten by Mist.
"This is hopeless, Flame. There's still three of them, and I can't keep this up!"
"What else can we do then? Retreat?"
The brave duo had managed to fell one faerie, but three others were still attacking them relentlessly. The fifth was still watching the great doors, which had lost their light once Mist had walked through them.
Flame had neglected combat practice far too much. He was clearly faltering, and the faeries bearing down on them took great advantage of that. A lucky hit knocked his sword flying out of his hand - and the oak doors swung open. All fighting stopped. The faerie who had glared at Mist took a step forward.
And then, as natural as could be, Mist walked out of the chamber, carrying a silver staff. She raised the staff, watching the faeries closely. Three of them ran for the tunnel, screeching. Mist pointed her staff - Three evil ice sculptures stood near the tunnel mouth. Mist met the eyes of the final faerie coldly. They seemed to have a staring match, leaving Rathua and Flame without the slightest idea what was happening. Then the faerie screeched two horrible words and fled in a puff of purple smoke.
"Ah... Mist?" Flame began.
But the Wocky was paying him no attention. She was focused on the two ice pets that had appeared in the center of the room as the faerie vanished. The three ice pets watched each other silently for a moment - and Mist gave a little sigh and fell forwards into her parents' arms.
"The Dark Faeries kidnapped your parents, leaving you the only person the spirits could speak to."
"And then they sent you into the desert to melt."
"And then when we got back here, you told the faerie their plan wasn't going to work, so they might as well give bring your parents back?"
"That's the gist of it, yeah..."
Rathua, Flame and Mist were sitting outside Mist's home, drinking something sweet and warm Mist's mother had made. "So what did the Ice Spirits tell you?"
"They told me they were promised gems that they didn't get - crystals and diamonds and stuff. And they said they might not have minded the fact they didn't get any gems if they had had a heir around, even if it was just to talk to them and keep their chamber nice. So I told them the truth - that my parents vanished, and that I would do anything for them as long as they didn't destroy my home."
"And then," said Mist with a smile, "They gave me the staff, and told me to just stare at the bravest faerie. To make it look like I understood, I guess. They said it would be worth my while..."
"It was!" laughed Rathua.
"And they told me..."
I asked them why they used the word, 'heir', when what I did didn't seem very important.
And they told me that when I was born, they could see how I would grow up. Not my life, not reading the future - just see what kind of person I'd become. And they said they'd seen good things in me, so they marked me out. And they said, while heir isn't an appropriate title for the cleaner of a crystal room, it was a good title for the ruler of the mountain.
I asked them what they meant.
And they told me that even though I didn't do a lot myself, they had been described as 'picky' - which they claimed was unjust - and so would only speak to me. And that meant that the fate of the mountain and everyone on it rested on me, and so while I didn't have any power myself, I was responsible for theirs. And the pets on the mountain relied on me, which gave me a role of leadership, thus deserving the title of heir. Heir to a legacy, the legacy of those that did what they could to keep the mountain at peace.
I told them I would try to never let them down, or anyone who lived on the mountain.
And they told me that I wouldn't. They told me that I was their heir, and that I would always do what was right. That I was the heir to the Legacy of Ice.