“Seeking the Past, Where Are You My Friend?”
In the gloom of the eve the ice palace shimmered like a star. Tiny droplets of condensation slipped down the walls, pillars, and decorative accents, all glistening wetly. Each bead flowed in runnels long eroded by hundreds of years of melt and freeze.
Galahdad felt discomforted with his footing. Underneath his boots he could feel the slippage of condensation as he strode through the halls.
Everything was carved from a single black of ice atop narrowing cliff face overlooking the Sea of Elsma. From the outer walls which the warrior had strode past to arrive at the palace gates to the beams that held up the ceiling and the pains that covered the windows.
He bore no torch. Only an insane man would bare a flame in a palace that would puddle around his ankles, rise up, and eventually drown him.
Moonlight was enough for Galahdad to guide himself. Somehow white rays from the moon passed through the walls, filling icy globes with dazzling white-blue light.
His footsteps rang out against the tiles made from sheets of ice, woven with the lines of blue magic that kept the palace reforming itself despite any slight warmth above freezing temperatures. Over a hundred years the palace should’ve melted and with the perpetual cold hardened once more into an unsightly glob. The magic knew the shape. And yet the spells woven through the ice allowed runnels to form. Scars against the pristine crystalline façade.
Silence kept the air still, providing a forlorning that made Galahdad shutter. Or perhaps that was the cold?
Galahdad rolled his massive shoulders. His leather armor creaking. The fur cloak around his shoulders shifting.
All he had for company was this silence and the slouching armor of those adventurers who’s footsteps he walked in now.
Suits of armor lay about the hallways he ventured. Half sunken into the icy walls, ever preserved. Some now part of the pillars and slouching in alcoves. Swords were stuck in the tiles, frost chilling the blades. Shields lay about, bumps in the floor.
Galahdad bent to one knee. Ran a gloved hand over the tattered tabard of one poor soul who’d come to the end of his adventure in this ice palace. The sigil was of an oak with a single golden apple in the spreading boughs. He could feel a deathly chill under his fingertips, through his gloves, tightening his joints, stiffening his hands. Galahdad withdrew his hand as if bitten. Rubbing his fingers together. White shaving fluttered about his feet.
Shrugging of the encounter with the hollow armor, Galahdad roamed the halls further. His eyes shifted to each defeated suit of armor, arms cast aside, shattered, broken. Each time his eyes found no familiarity and his heart both shrank back and rose with hope.
He continued searching the halls, checking the armors, until he came upon a vast doomed room. Pillars thicker than two men held up the roof like burdened giants, backs pressing back darkness as the moon’s gaze shined as bright as the sun through the doom and lit the inner area. At the opposite end from where Galahdad entered, a series of wide steps rose to a platform where atop sat a throne made of ice. The throne seemed to have risen up out of the platform, the chair curving smoothly into a high back that took the form of a polar bear.
Laying face down upon the rising steps, reaching helplessly up toward the palace’s vacant throne, was a suit of armor.
Galahdad’s breath puffed out in misty cloud as he hastened forward. Boots clicking on the tiles. Fur cloak flapping behind him. His bulk seemed to drag him back, keep him from quickly approaching the armor.
Then Galahdad found himself at the foot of the rising tiered dais, out of breath, fiery main soaked with sweat, body damp and chilly under his leather armor.
He bent to turn over the suit of armor, to see the sigil its former wearer had bore.
With an effort the laden and limp arms shrugged over on to its back.
Galahdad stared at the grizzly bear sigil on the armor’s chest. Same sigil on his own leathers.
Emotion welled up into his chest. Gathered. Until deluge became too much to bear.
He slammed a fist into the first step ascending to the throne above. A cracking spread out from the impact. The impact creating a crash that echoed and seemed to break the silence of the icy– No. Not a palace. A tomb. This was an icy tomb.
A breath of wind stirred Galahdad’s mane of fiery hair and his cloud of breath seemed to freeze in front of his face. Crinkling. Crackling.
He forced his tightly shut eyes open and immediately his body leapt back, away from his armor, his mind following a half step behind his reflex.
Like teeth chattering from the brisk cold, the armor with the bear sigil jerked.
The visor covering the face of the dead warrior, pushed down now, snapped up. A skull leered at Galahdad. Sockets dark but not empty.
Tentatively, Galahdad crept ever so closer to the suit of armor. Hand on the hilt of the greatsword strapped to his back.
He peered into the open helm. Looked at the eye sockets swirling with darkness. An inky tar shifted around in each socket like the spoiled water of two lakes.
Galahdad leaned down. Licked his lips, his red whiskers damp. His own armor creaked.
The darkness within the helm burst from the skull in a whoosh of expelled air. A scream loosed in violation of the palace’s silence, as if unsure where this was, where to go next. Around the pouring dark, the discarded armor rattled with a spasm to crack bone, scramble brain.
Then the armor fell lifeless again.
Above, a dark cloud gathered. The liquid in the skull had turned a thick, gossamer mist.
Galahdad found his fingers aching. His hand desperately clutching his weapon. Yet the weapon remained unsheathed as the living warrior witnessed to his horror a face form in the mist. A white skull that took shape into something familiar.
The sword would not budged. Or Galahdad’s fingers would not work. He simply stared at the mist with the yawning white face, a porcelain mark hovering within the shifting gloom.
Words failed Galahdad. His lips flapping until he finally managed a few feeble words. Voice raw and scratchy. “Danard? My friend, is that… is that you in there?”
The dark cloud from the armor moaned in dissatisfaction or maybe anger.
Galahdad drew his sword, reluctantly.