Chrono Shift Chapter 2
Victims Under The Frozen Hell
Augur had soon realized that the bizarre incidents of last night were only another dream, but there were two things that still seemed strange about them. The first were the voices. They seemed to be telling him something. Was he the boy that they were talking about? What was this about the timestreams? It was all very mysterious. The second was Astra. The events were so real; they had even seemed more real than some of the things that had actually happened in his life. The weirdest part, however, was the relation that the latter part of the dream had to what was happening right now.
His thoughts were broken when Astras soft voice broke the silence. It was nice having you around these last few days. Will you please stop by on your way home? The past few minutes had made it plainly obvious that she liked Augur, as she had in the dream. She jumped and gave him a strong hug, and for some reason Augur expected it. He embraced her as well, and it lasted for quite awhile. When they finally let go, Astra gave him a look that was half serious, half affectionate. You better be careful out there. Its a dangerous place in the Earthbound Village. They hate us Enlightened, you know.
Augur smiled as he was walking away. He couldnt stop staring at those deep green eyes. Ill be careful, he assured. And Ill visit on the way back. While walking semi-backward, he waved at her, and in the process managed to stumble over a chair and end up on his back.
Astra giggled uncontrollably. Of course, why should I be worried about you? Youre the most cautious person I know. Augur gave her a look, and then left.
He met Seraph and Candor at the point of departure. Large mammoths would be pulling covered sleds to allow them to travel across the continent. A rather large exposition team had assembled to investigate a power source emitting from a small mountain near the Earthbound Village. They would stop at the village first, because some of the Earthbounds were acting up again. Dalton would enforce the law, in his own twisted way, and then the team would leave. Augur, Seraph, and Candor would be picked up on the way back.
Augur watched as a few Earthbounds secured ropes and packed supplies and did other things. The filthy animals were given some of the lowliest jobs at Port Dalton, such as custodial, and in exchange they got to sleep in decent shelters and didnt have to search for their food. Augur never enjoyed being around them. He despised them because of their putrid stench, their grimy skin, and their grubby clothes, which were always tattered and disheveled. Seraph was not old enough to really have an opinion on them. Candor, however, was one of the few Enlightened ones that felt sympathy for the Earthbound, despite being in the midst of hundreds that hated them. Augur supposed that they were treated unfairly in the Kingdom of Zeal, but then again, they werent part of the Kingdom of Zeal anyway.
There were roughly ten wagons that would be pulled by the mammoths, a few would contain men, and the others food and supplies. The Earthbound had just finished loading up the carts, and now men were pouring into the remaining three. Dalton made special arrangements that Candor would be put in his cart, so Augur and Seraph tagged along. The ride would take eight to ten hours with the giant creatures, but could vary depending on the conditions outside. After they were a good hour into the trip, Dalton made his move.
So hows it going, Honey? he asked Candor deviously.
Candor eyed him curiously. Isnt it a little cold to be playing those twisted games of yours, Dalton? she observed, trying to get him to disappear.
Well, Sweet Cheeks, thats why I need you. We can maybe, heat it up a tad?
Dalton was notoriously known for being a mischievous sex hound in Zeal, but Candor had never actually met him. No Dalton, I dont need to, nor do I want to, try anything with you. She contemplated what his reaction would be. She knew he would not give up; being unproblematic did not fit his attitude.
Oh, but Baby, came the reply. Dalton began to slide his arm around Candor, but she brushed it away. Come on, Im really not a bad guy, and I can show you a good time.
Augur had watched the exchange for a while, but was quickly growing tired of it. He chose to pipe up. Listen, Dalton, he barked. Shes not one of your cheap whores. She doesnt like you, and she doesnt want to do anything with you. Cant you get that through your thick skull?
Dalton was outraged. Why, you little dirty, how dare you? I ought to kill you, he sputtered. You better watch your back, pal. Nobody insults the Great Dalton! Insulting me in front of a fine lady is like two death wishes in one!!
Great Dalton? Thats an oxymoron if Ive ever heard one. Your reputation comes purely from your love of cheap booze and even cheaper women, while ruthlessly fighting like a renegade, without any shred of honor or dignity in you.
Dalton struggled for a decent rebuttal, but his mind failed to aid him, so instead he cursed and threatened some more. What gives you the right to talk like that to me? Im a high ranking officer and the Kings right hand man, and youre lucky you live on the island, you insignificant little punk.
Why do you think Zeal always brings your name up before anyone elses on all these foolhardy missions?
Because he respects me and he knows that Ill get the job done.
Augur smiled because he knew he had Dalton ensnared, and the best part, as always, came from the satisfaction that he did not realize Augurs carefully laid out preparations. Did you ever think that he always sends you away because he cant stand to have you around? The only reason you ever got the position in the first place is your father had been a friend of his father. You didnt ever really think that you had some kind of special skill or talent that qualified you for the job, did you? Dalton, dumbfounded, made no indication other than silence to let Augur know he had been heard.
During all of this, Candor had gotten up and began to leave. Dalton noticed. While slapping her on the butt, he inquired, Come on, Sugar, dont leave me hanging here. Just give me a chance. Candor became angry, and smacked him across the face hard enough to knock him backwards. She then proceeded to abscond, with Dalton and Augur remaining.
Serves you right, Dalton. You should be more careful when selecting your prey. Some of them fight back.
Dalton grinned. Yeah, I like it that way. It makes it so much hotter.
Really, Dalton. She isnt even close to your type. I thought you were more into the likes of, oh, I dont know, say, me. Augur nailed Dalton below the belt with that one, and he knew it.
Alright you little prick, get ready to perish. Dalton drew his sword and pointed it right at Augur. Augur retorted by pulling out his two smaller swords. Dalton saw the blades, and knew that if Augur attacked, he would be unable to block them both. Dalton had his usual cowardly reply prepared. Your lucky, son. This is neither the time nor the place to be dueling. When we get to the Earthbound Village, you better have someone to watch your ass!
No one saw Dalton for quite awhile. The hours passed, they were making good time, and would probably arrive in the cave dwellings of the Earthbound with a trip time of only seven hours, better than anyone could expect. Even with the shortened length of the trip, it was still insidiously boring. Augur thought of how much easier it would be just to die than to wait around doing nothing. When they were nearing their destination, the sun still remained elevated in the sky, peeking out from under the scores of clouds. With just a few minutes to go, they were blindsided by a massive hitch in the mission.
A strong gust had gathered at the moment of the beginning of the onslaught, so no one really noticed what was happening for several critical seconds. It took one of the giant mammoths crashing through one of the covered sleds containing explorers for everyone to detect the problem. The horrid scream of death alerted some of the Zealian soldiers, and the rest were aware when a messenger howled at all that were in Augurs transport to get out and fight.
When they were outside, Seraph was the first to point at an enormous group of icemen that had collected. Their first attack had been on two of the sleds containing supplies, but the main damage was done when the mammoths became free, and simultaneously, quite frightened and unwittingly, caused the true carnage began. They ran free in every direction, and in the process, leveled three more carts. One of them had contained men for the mission, and a large number were now lying on the ground, wounded in numerous ways. Many men had been trampled or crushed. Several had their skulls caved in or broken bones ranging from the appendages to ribs and the spine. When the hooves of the animals would land on a hapless victims chest, the weight would be great enough to puncture all the way through. Sometimes the combination of fresh blood and snow would make a temporary adhesive and the colossal creatures dragged men underneath their feet for long distances, as their lifeless arms and legs flailed aimlessly, dangling out from underneath.
The situation further worsened when everyone realized most of the weapons were in supply carts, and in the distance between the warriors and their tools of death were the savage sasquatch monsters. The icemen now saw the humans, and drew themselves nearer, although some ignored them as they were already feeding on dead carcasses. The only soldiers that would have weapons would be the ones who brought their own personal hardware along with them on the journey, yet the Enlightened had a clear advantage in the situation. They all possessed at least traces of magic, and would not hesitate to use it when they saw their fallen colleagues on the snow.
Augur watched as one man flung a fireball at a beast, although did not do much more than singe the fur. The next spell came in the form of numerous small lightning balls, and struck with enough force to knock several incoming icemen backwards. Two had apparent seizures from the attack, and wouldnt stop vibrating. Another attack came from the left side of Augur. This one was a plain water stream, which pulverized one of the adversaries in the face. This did little more than push it back, but it was combined by the icy force of another fighter, who froze the stream, encasing the head of the brute in ice.
By now, some of the more physical combatants with blades were fighting in close combat. The first one to reach an iceman was beheaded by a strong swipe from the oversized claws. The next man leaped into the air and drove his sword deep into the neck of the murderer of his ally. The beast landed on its back, and the victor removed the sharp edge, revealing the blood stains on the iron. He did not see the attack from behind, and after being batted down to the ground, the claws of the enemy soon plunged deep into his chest, digging out chunks of fleshy tissue. The meat seemed to be a fine delicacy for the icemen, as they consumed it with the utmost respect that a wild mammal could have shown for a victim.
Augur gazed over the battle. At places he would see the defenders standing gloriously over the snow creatures. These icemen showed severed arms, and some had axes or swords sticking out of the chest or back. One axe happened to be rather large, and had split the skull and head of an animal into equal halves. At other areas of the battle, remains of his partners in arms were dying in the worst of ways. Some lay suffering without legs, endeavoring to crawl away, their bloody stumps oozing their insides onto the earth, where there was not enough snow to absorb the reddish pools forming around them. Two men were lying facedown on the ground, giant rips traveling all the way down their backs. Augur watched in horror as one man was hit hard enough by the smack of a paw that his head landed at least twenty feet from his body.
Augur knew now that he had to get involved. The lieutenants of the mystical army were not faring as well as they should have been. With some effort, Augur charged up an area on the ground between the second and third lines of the icemen. He pinpointed the area in which he would release the spell, and then on that land he charged up a cluster of rather potent fire energy. He increased the intensity as much as he could, then he released the flames that had fabricated in the vicinity of the charge.
The effect of the spell ended up being scandalously more powerful than Augur had planned on. As soon as he let go of his control on the energy, an explosion erected. From the explosion came a deafening report, and an inferno stretching in all directions. Many nearby iceman themselves exploded, with their heads being separated and then turning into a thick stew of chunky gore. The shockwave knocked several of the closer beasts off their feet. All of the fallen icemen were immediately barbecued, and many beyond them also collapsed in the blaze. The fur torched right off his foes, and many layers of their hides were seared down to the bone. Toward ground zero, it was so hot that bone had actually melted. Some of the icemen further from the blast were still being almost instantaneously shattered into billions of bits of roasted meat. Flaming hunks of muscle were now beginning to spray some of the creatures that had been fortunate enough to be away from the detonation, and they were also dropping, swatting at the sticky hot embers, trying to remove them. They were flying fast enough to break through a few layers of skin, where they sat and burned themselves deep within the animals.
Everyone felt the heat from the high flames. It lit up the sky to a vibrancy seen only when staring directly at the sun. Brilliant oranges and reds were reflected off the clouds, and even the snow became colored. When the fire finally died down, the rumbling echo from the bang lingered discernible. A small area of snow actually caught fire, despite the fact that all Augurs teachings told him it is completely impossible for snow to burn. A large cave formed when the explosion caused the collapse of the surface about twenty feet away. Augur accumulated his thoughts in absolute awe of the power he had released. Maybe he was a gifted magician after all.
The stunning effects of the spell had caused a collective hypnosis, among both icemen and the Enlightened. Dalton was the first to react, and he cast a dark wave over a medium sized group of the remaining enemies. The air wavered in the aftermath, and black clouds of energy polluted the area. White flashes were barely visible from inside the cloud, but the shrill crying that murmured out from underneath the blanket unmistakably meant that the snowmen could only be suffering copiously. When the evil dust cleared, all that remained were collapsed bodies. This was the nature of dark magic. It always produced strange effects, and the subtlest of attacks frequently caused the most damage.
Everyone resumed their quarrels, but the humans had the major advantage now. Finishing the slaughter would still take some time, but it would be near impossible to get all of the damaged supplies to the Earthbound Cave. Dalton called at some of the troops to approach him. When it looked as if he were ready to begin some speech or order, he glared at Augur. You, he said. Get over here right now. I have a job for you.
Augur obeyed and sprinted over to the assemblage, listening as Dalton began to talk. As you know, he began These beasts attacked us, and we are making them pay. We will win this battle, there is no question about that. For all of you, I have another mission. Fight through the line of these deranged snowmen, or whatever the hell they are, and salvage whatever supplies you can from the destroyed snow carts. Load them up on the remaining ones, and dont worry about overfilling them. We will sort it out after we are finished.
The men all agreed that this was a good idea. For a man that was completely nuts, Dalton had some decent strategies for fighting. A few of the men formed the front line and began to walk toward the onslaught. Just as Augur began to leave with them, a snowball hit him in the back of the ear, and fairly hard. Augur cursed and turned to see Seraph running towards him, Candor not far behind. When Seraph reached him, she panted between her breaths, Candor thought it would be best if we stayed together. Augur agreed.
The three stuck to the back of the lines, but as they closed in on the horde of creatures, the soldiers wanted Augur to lead the assault. Candor spoke at this time. I think that you will all agree that this should be very hit-and-run. We dont want to many of these things after us. Avoid as much conflict as possible. All of the men acknowledged the idea positively. Then Augur drew his rapiers out from their sheaths and ran silently in the snow. The warriors followed his example.
When Augur reached the first of the furry animals, he held his sword out sideways, and ended up cutting a deep gash into its back. The iceman fell, and the soldier behind him drove a sword through the back of the skull, which protruded completely, and exited through the nose of the beast.
Working in the fashion that birds fly in a V to break up the wind, the men cut a sliver through the lightened lines of icemen. Magic pushed the fiends back on all sides. One spell spontaneously combusted an iceman, creating a living fireball out of him. He fled the area with flames jumping high off his white coat, and grabbed a comrade looking for help. It also caught fire, and the two crumpled. The fire bent the arms and legs into strange shapes as it devoured them.
Candor provided a protective shield over the outer layer of men. Holding up the barrier briskly took its toll on the woman, and she did not know how much longer she could keep it up. Even now a couple soldiers were being picked off and murdered.
Some of the Zealians back by Dalton were offering their support by sending showers of death on the icemen. A large fireball crushed several into the earth, no doubt shattering them and allowing the fire to roast all of their organs at the same time. Lightning bolts were downing the beasts with single blasts, often containing enough heat to char their whole bodies. The ice showers were the deadliest, because as they poured down, the large sharp hail fell on the heads of the beasts and pierced them. Ice chunks would down them left and right, and blood fountains erupted from where the fresh wounds had opened.
When they reached the far side of the icemen, Seraph summoned some of her white magic. A flash of pure, holy light tore through the bodies of ten intruders abruptly, and killed faster than a blade through the head would. Their bodies plummeted to the ground, where they became tangled amongst each other. Seraph then sent several spears of light at the creatures, which perforated through them immediately, but left no hole where they hit. Some went directly through three or more of the enemies. The attack lasted less than a second, because the beams were of very high speed. At least a dozen cadavers crashed to the earth.
The men then formed two groups. One would do the job of recovering the lost supplies, and the other would be a defensive group to keep the icemen from interfering with the job. The search and rescue group realized that on this half of the transports, two carriages were downed, and three remained. Augur, Candor, and Seraph found what they could and put it into the large pile that the rest were forming. They would carry it to the carts and load them up after the remaining adversaries were defeated. As it stood there were only about a hundred to a hundred-fifty remaining, and they were now perishing rapidly.
Augur noticed that a green poison had cursed many of the icemen. They were reacting slower and falling more easily now. Augur wondered who could cast such a powerful poison, since there were very few people who could still use authoritative green magic. Green magic had become rare since the snowstorm had covered the land many years ago. There still existed quite a bit if you knew where to find it, but magic users with a green innate were all but extinct.
As Seraph put a drum of food into the pile, she gazed off to the side, and screamed. This sound alerted everyone, and one even lost his life because it diverted his attention from the conflict. Augur and Candor soon saw what Seraph had seen. Approaching nearer, and quickly, came a giant iceman, which could easily be designated as the king of the icemen. The colossal monster stood at least fifteen feet tall. Candor brought control to the group when she told everyone to continue their jobs. She then glanced at Augur and Seraph. Well get rid of this beast. We are the most powerful among these men. Lets take it out.
Seraph responded by shooting an arrow. The arrow struck King Iceman in the chest, but could not even pierce the skin, instead becoming tangled in the fur and hanging there. King Iceman responded by picking up a large chunk of ice and lobbing it at the three. They all ran out of the way in time, and they saw layers of snow uplift around the boulder. Seraph readied her bow again, and this time when she shot, the arrow was powered up by a fire spell from Candor. When she shot, the wind picked up, but it did not carry the arrow enough to move it away from the giant. With the hot red metal tip of the dart, it again struck King Iceman, this time in the thigh. The hot metal allowed it to penetrate through the skin this time, and it easily scalded several layers of tissue. The wooden stick of the arrow exploded on impact, causing fiery splinters to singe the fur. This also left no way for the burning metal to be removed from the creature.
King Iceman fell to one knee, and then recovered, quite angrily. He extended a hefty claw, and blue energy began to quiver in his hand. Seraph looked at Candor. Icemen have magic? she exclaimed. Candor was equally stunned. While they were hesitating, a river of freezing water soaked the trio several times through. King Iceman then tried to harden the water, hoping to encase them in ice. They were too clever for that, and they all cast small fire spells to protect themselves. The water didnt freeze, and Augur responded by dashing forward and taking large swings at the legs of the animal. Three cuts did appear on his right leg, but they did not do more than make him wince. King Iceman kicked his leg outward, and Augur was sent flying back to his friends. Blood stained the white fur where the iceman had been cut, but he did nothing to cover it, simply letting it drip to the ground, discoloring his leg.
King Iceman dashed towards Seraph, brought his arm back, and swiped at her. Seraph lunged out of the way just in time, but the other paw grabbed her and lifted her off the ground. King Iceman began to put more pressure on the little girl in an attempt to crush her bones. Augur saw this, and then gave Candor a look, who nodded in response. Using the charge of some black magic, he propelled high into the air, flying straight towards the cranium of the oversized thug. Candor pointed, and both blades strengthened with the power of shadow magic. Augur did not hit his intended targets of the eyes, and when he did hit the creature, his blades were not at a good offensive angle. The blow wasnt fatal, but it did have an effect. The rapiers swiftly removed the exposed skin on the forehead of King Iceman, and the bone of the skull became visible. When the sword had hit that, a blackish flash shrouded the sky for a brief second before disappearing. Barely crashing into the skull sent Augur tumbling away from the fight. The magic had not died off yet, and he continued to be torpedoed through the air, with no way of stopping gravity. When he finally landed, he was a good hundred feet away from the battle. The shock he received from the ground knocked him unconscious.
As for King Iceman, he faltered backward, and landed face up, with the skull sticking out above the eyes. He released Seraph, virtually uninjured. Both Candor and Seraph were extremely drained from the magic used on icemen since the attack on the sleds began. One trick that Candor still had left was her mystical staff. She walked over to the king, who immediately crawled to his knees after falling, and pasted him with the stick. The magic that had been stored within the rod caused it to hit with incredible force, and the iceman again collapsed. Seraph gathered her strength and hurled a ball of multiple energies at the beast. When it struck him, every effect in the magic spectrum rocked King Iceman briefly. He trembled on the ground in spasms, but after it was done he still proceeded to stand up.
King Iceman then shot out a cluster of ice spears at the two. Candor put up a weak magic shield, and Seraph complemented it. Neither Candor nor Seraph could surmount much more of the attacks. Candor scarcely managed to cause a rock spike to rise out from underneath the king to stop his ice blaze. The spike infiltrated his left leg completely, and he was now stuck. Then Candor collapsed from the overuse of her magic.
It was now up to Seraph to kill the king. Her small body could not stand much more magic use, either. She armed her bow with an arrow, and then added all of the pure energy she could. The arrow glimmered a blinding white, and lit up the sky for an extensive distance. King Iceman picked up a large boulder and held it over his head, preparing to throw. Seraph knew that she could not muster the strength to move out of the way, so the missile on her bow was her only chance.
Seraph subsided as soon as the arrow was released. From her new point on the ground, she watched the projectile rocket towards its target. It made a thunderous sound as it crossed the distance between the bow and the iceman. Though it happened in the blink of an eye, it seemed slow in Seraphs mind. The arrow hit its target right in the nose, and smashed its way through the snout. The energy in the arrow extended the fissure outward from the center. The brain of King Iceman disintegrated when it was touched by the aura surrounding the bullet. It then crossed the path through the back of the head and disappeared in the sky, continuing to the heavens. King Iceman fell backward, and in doing so, released his grip on the massive rock. The spike was still in his leg, so he did not fall completely. This allowed the icy stone to plummet right on top of the kings head, demolishing it, and leaving it only a half foot thick, just a fraction of its original extent. The remaining few icemen were fleeing in the distance. As soon as it was over, Seraph fainted.
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