Crystals, a Terror Mountain Legend
Tucked away within the shimmering frozen chasms of the Ice Caves, the Ice Crystal shop is home to many wondrous weapons carved from the walls of the Caves themselves. The secret to crafting such "brilliant and beautiful" weapons has been carefully guarded, passed down through each owner of the Ice Crystal shop.
This is the tale of the first two.
"How much further, Kiole?"
"The legends and the map seem to say we don't have too far left to go, Rothe."
The two brothers were a dark speck against the pure white landscape, trudging through waist-high snow towards the icy caves that lay buried to the north. The two Shoyrus, one golden, the other silver, had studied the art of combat under the same master, and once hearing the legends of old, had developed the same dreams. The golden Shoyru was Kiole, the younger brother, who wielded spells while his silver brother Rothe had a preference for steel. Together they had discovered ancient texts speaking of incredible weapons carved from resilient ice and infused with mystical snow, and together they had embarked on a journey from their distant home to learn the craft of ice weaponry.
Across their shoulders were strapped travelers' packs containing among other things craftsmen's tools, small chisels and hammers and even soft polishing cloths for delicate magicians' work. Within their minds burned a strong will to see the quest through. Closer they drew to the entrance to the Caves, and closer they drew to the secrets that had driven them thus far.
The ongoing snowstorm made no sign of ceasing as the brothers approached a sheer cliff face, covered with huge runes carved into the stone.
"The map, the map..." Kiole muttered, fumbling with the thick woolen gloves that obscured his hands. Unfolding the tattered piece of thick canvas, he scanned the surface for the runes that revealed the hidden entrance.
Rothe grunted irritably. The silver Shoyru was not particularly patient, and when his brother wordlessly pointed to a curled, twisted symbol, he eagerly shoved at the stone with almost unnecessary force.
A creak, a gush of stale air, and cracks appeared in the cliff face, outlining a door of stone, its center marked by the symbol Kiole had indicated. The stones groaned, as if unwilling to yield.
"Too easy!" Rothe crowed, and rushed inside, just as a particularly fierce gale of frost howled across the Terror Mountain landscape. Kiole shook his head and followed his brother, darting through the door just as a chill blizzard wind began to push it closed.
The sight that greeted them on the other side was strange and otherworldly.
They were in a large workshop of sorts, lit here and there by a series of bottles scattered across wooden workbenches, shelves, and tables. The walls were white stone; at the far end of the huge room was a door of carved stone, inlaid with steel, spiderwebbed with frost. Oddly enough, while their breath fogged in the air, the two did not feel cold. Rothe seemed disappointed by the lack of weapons, but Kiole practically (and quite literally) flew across the room to examine a row of cylindrical bottles.
"Brother, this is Fire Snow!" Kiole excitedly tugged an ancient tome from his traveler's pack, opening the book slowly, reverently, until he found the page he was looking for. "It's the reason there's light here. Fire Snow, enchanted to burn without the need of—"
"Kiole, forget your magicks, we came here to find the secret to weapons of ice, and there are no weapons of ice here..." Rothe griped, irritably shedding his own pack and giving the bottles a look of disdain.
His brother's reply was to uncork the bottle of Fire Snow and launch some of the stuff at Rothe's face.
"Arghhhh!" Rothe crashed to the floor and rolled around in agony (punctuated by cries of "getitoffgetitoff" and "itburnsitburns" and more "aarrgghhhh"s) while his younger brother stifled a small smile and peacefully continued his reading.
"Fire Snow is certainly a weapon, Rothe, just look how effectively it works," the golden Shoyru turned a page, ignoring his brother rolling around on the ground. "And the legends say that the recipe of sorts is simple enough, all it requires is snow from the inside of the Caves and an incantation, a diagram drawn in the ice, but there's nothing written about the actual incantation, what kind of diagram..." Kiole looked at the steel and stone door. "Perhaps that is our way inside..."
Rothe had recovered enough to look up. "Inside... to the Ice Caves? Do you know what lies beyond this door? Monsters, warriors, sorcerers, evil undead beasts meant to keep the unworthy from stealing the precious ice and snow?"
Kiole grimaced and flipped through a few more pages in his book. "No, I don't think there's anything as exciting as that. Let me see." The golden Shoyru carefully placed his book on a table, then walked around the workshop. In the dim light cast by the bottles of Fire Snow, he could barely make out the shapes of roughly-hewn wooden shelves, stocked with countless empty bottles. Empty bottles, and strange, twisted shapes of what appeared to be glass, glass dripping water.
"Brother, all these shelves... perhaps some held the weapons you were looking for. But it seems as if..."
The silver Shoyru understood. "Indeed! It seems as if nearly all the ice has gone and melted. Hmm... Kiole, do you remember the technique those Air Faeries taught you, those years ago?"
The younger brother nodded. Concentrating, Kiole brought his hands together, conjuring a small pulse of white light. "Diamond Dust," he muttered, bringing his palms outward as a maelstrom of tiny snowflakes gathered, warped, danced in the soft light. Directing the ability towards one of the shelves, Kiole winced as there was a faint hissing sound—and the walls began to light up.
A chandelier carved of deep blue ice flickered into sight, lit with ethereal fire ("Snow Flame," Kiole whispered in wonder) and runes began winding their way through the walls, brightening the large workshop, tracing the designs of weapons once designed, now forgotten.
"It was said that the first crafters of ice left behind a legacy, which would be revealed only to the worthy," Rothe raised a hand to trace the carving of an ice sword, burned into the walls. The runes and drawings, which had been outlined in blazing blue light, had faded to a charcoal black, dark against the walls. And so the brothers realized, this was why there were no books, no charts, no written records of the weapon designs. All the secrets were hidden within the workshop's walls.
Kiole stared. "They're beautiful," he whispered as his eyes raced across the runes, reading the script, deciphering the curling symbols and the secrets they held.
"What are we waiting for?" Rothe crowed, and seized a handful of carving tools from the floor of the workshop. "Stop staring at those Snow Flame fire lights or whatever they are. We have weapons to craft!"
Not too long later, after a rather raucous shouting match that nearly shook icicles from the cavern walls, the two brothers agreed to open the heavy steel door and take a look at whatever lay outside. It surprised them both when the door swung open smoothly; the hinges made no creak, no groan.
An eerie sight lay before them. Tunnels, miles upon miles of ice-encrusted tunnels, winding mazelike deep into the mountain, illuminated here and there by crevices in the walls and ceiling through which shafts of sunlight trickled through. Kiole dashed back into the workshop and returned with a torch lit with Snow Flame, as well as several unlit torches. And so the two set off into the tunnels, noting in awe the enormous shimmering icicles that dangled from the ceiling.
The brothers busied themselves finding the tunnel with the most icicles. As Kiole carved indents to hold the snow torches to mark a path back, Rothe hacked away at two icicles to bring to the workshop, and picked some snow grapes for later.
When the two returned to the workshop, they closed the steel door, and each picked a design from the walls to follow. Neither Rothe nor Kiole was a stranger to carving weapons from wood, but ice would prove to be much different...
"How do you fare, brother?" Rothe sighed, throwing aside a hammer and knocking away the chisel he had been using with it.
"Not too well. And you?" Kiole had buried his face in his book. The Ice Scepter he was attempting to carve was crudely made, lacking the refined detail of the picture on the wall he had been facing. Rothe's Snowball Club possessed similar defects.
"Our own tools are too clumsy for such work," Rothe stated. "There was a village we passed through at the foot of the mountain. Perhaps we should purchase tools as well as food the next time we visit there."
Kiole shook his head. "It was written that the walls of the Ice Caves, the ice of the Ice Caves, is touched with magic. I think there is something we are doing wrong."
Weeks passed. Sleeping bags were laid out and folded neatly each day. Icicles were cut down and shaped. The two brothers continued to hone their craft, but while they improved in the art of carving ice, their works still looked like little more than crude imitations of the intricate weapons whose pictures were carved into the workshop walls.
"Rothe, what do you think happened to whoever carved the images on the workshop walls?" Kiole asked one particularly challenging day, when he'd shattered three glass bottles in a row failing to create Fire Snow.
"Perhaps they gave up their practice... or were trapped outside by an avalanche... I can't imagine why they would spend so much time putting pictures into walls, though."
"Magical pictures... they wanted to teach someone, but what if that someone never arrived?" Kiole lobbed a snowball at the ceiling, watching it soar upwards and then splat somewhere near his brother's foot. Rothe gave him a dark look. Regardless of how warm it was in the workshop, ice and snow never melted within it, and that fact made for many pranks Rothe would have preferred to do without.
The Snow Flame chandelier flickered and dimmed. Kiole noticed and directed a stream of Diamond Dust at it; the blue-white light returned to normal.
"We need to keep learning."
Their food supplies dwindled. Eventually both brothers spoke of giving it up, spoke of returning home to pursue some other long-winded quest. Yet both remained stubborn, and one day, Kiole stumbled upon something that changed their fate.
He had been throwing out the latest batch of roughly-hewn, already-melting icicles, and something on the tunnel wall caught his eye. It was a series of runes, etched into the ice, above a section of wall which seemed to be missing some pieces.
Kiole bent closer. S... SH... SHAR... SHARDS.
In the flickering light of the Snow Flame torch, Kiole read the secret to the soul of the ice weapons, and knew not what it meant. What he remembered, however, was that there had been a drawing of shards, or rather, a shard, somewhere on the walls of the workshop.
Rothe was stretched out on the floor, snoring soundly, when Kiole threw open the door and dumped a snowball on his brother's face.
The silver Shoyru woke with a mangled (and slightly comical) yell, and after swatting at his face, he glared at his brother, who had carefully dumped a pile of ice chunks onto a table.
"Kiole, there are better ways of asking someone to wake up," Rothe grumbled.
But Kiole was too busy looking at what he had brought back from the Caves. "Brother, look at this. I can't believe we'd missed it."
Rothe was only slightly interested. He sidled over, glancing at the chunks, no, pieces of ice Kiole had brought back. Wrapped with simple lengths of cord, the tiny fragments showed no clear significance. "Kiole, what have you found?"
The golden Shoyru pointed at part of the wall, where a pictograph showed a perfect replica of the shards, surrounded by small depictions of every weapon that was explained in the workshop. "Ice Shards. These are the tools we need. The only intact relics left by the original masters, because..."
"...because that was all the next masters should have needed." Rothe picked up one of the shards, careful to only touch the cord, and examined it. "...this is razor-sharp, brother. Where did you find them all?"
Kiole shrugged, but grabbed an icicle he had been attempting to carve earlier. "I found these scattered in the tunnels, hidden in niches carved into the walls, packed with snow. It seems like they were regularly harvested, and only from places marked with runes. Small runes. But I think..."
Rothe had seized the icicle. Exchanging a glance with his brother, he brought ice to ice, shard to shaft. He carved.
Slowly, almost with a sigh, the ice yielded to the shard, and by Rothe's hand the former chunk of icicle changed, morphed, was shaped into a blade, shaped into an intricately-curved scimitar. When Rothe stepped back, the weapon that gleamed on the table was a perfect mirror image of the one depicted in stone on the wall across the room.
"So that's the secret," Kiole breathed. He picked up another ice shard, and something occurred to him. "Brother, I had been carving a staff. What made you decide to craft a blade instead?"
Rothe was still shaken. "I... I had nothing to do with it." He picked up the scimitar in awe. "It was as if... the ice carved itself." He swung the scimitar. "It's perfect. Light, balanced, Kiole, throw a snowball at me."
The golden Shoyru was surprised, but complied. A whoosh, a whistling sound, and two halves of snowball struck the ground.
Rothe stared. Kiole stared. Both said nothing, as the remains of the snowball collapsed on the floor and the ice scimitar winked in the light of the snow flames. The weapon slipped from Rothe's hand, it clattered to the stone floor, where it came to rest without a scratch.
It was golden Kiole who finally broke the silence. "Well... at least we won't need to worry about money for food anymore."
Again, time passed. Rothe took over the task of carving weapons, while Kiole gradually taught himself to whittle enchanted gloves, which he used to create the magical items of the snow and ice: snowflakes, rings, magical shields. Rothe found that carving ice with the enchanted ice shards was more like shaping clay than carving. Kiole found that snow scraped from the walls using ice shards created perfect Fire Snow. They traded with the village at the foot of the mountain, traded with visitors who came to see the mountain.
Eventually they discovered that a portion of the Ice Cave tunnels led from the workshop to an "ice arena" currently being constructed. So at that tunnel entrance the brothers built a small shop from bricks carved of ice, and at that shop (Kiole named it, Rothe didn't know why it was called "Ice Crystal" but it certainly sounded impressive) they began to sell their items to whoever happened to pass their way in the Caves.
Gradually the runes on the walls of the workshop faded, but it mattered little as both brothers had virtually memorized the designs of each weapon they had learned to craft. (and as it was, Rothe found out that Kiole had been sketching the designs into a book anyway) The brothers kept a few extra ice weapons on hand for when the shop needed restocking, and always, there was a shelf dedicated to ice shards and only ice shards, the essential tool and heart of ice weaponry.
It was some time before Kiole had the idea to sell the shards themselves. Rothe scoffed at first, but then agreed good-naturedly.
Of course, the shards never sold particularly well. But the day came, sooner than the brothers expected, when another Shoyru, younger than both of them, glanced over the ice swords and snowflakes, looked past the weapons and magical Frost Healing bag, and picked up an ice shard. He paid for it, and quietly, almost hesitantly, asked the brothers if they would tell him their story, perhaps tell him the use of such a seemingly simple piece of ice.
Rothe and Kiole, who had been talking together about maybe finding an apprentice someday, exchanged glances.
"Of course," they replied in unison.