Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, here to read Part Three, and here to read Part Four.
She grabbed the door handle, and froze as she tired to turn it. It wouldn’t budge. I should've known, she thought with a sinking feeling. That man was far too kind…
“Be at peace.”
The girl spun around. No one was there.
“Be at peace,” the voice said again. It was strong, yet gentle; majestic, yet empathetic.
“Who's there?” the girl asked.
“I,” came the answer, “am your Creator.”
Her eyes widened. Creator? She'd never heard of any such person. The only celestial beings she'd ever been told of were the star gods. It was quite obvious that this Creator existed though.
She only knew one thing for sure about the star gods: they always wanted something. Whoever this Creator is, He’s probably the same. “What do you want?”
The Creator laughed. It was the most wonderful noise the girl had ever heard. “I’m not asking you to give me anything. I've come with a gift.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I will help you defeat the ice army, and afterwards, I have an even greater deliverance to offer,” He said.
The girl was speechless. Since when to gods meddle with the wars of men? And what can He mean by a greater deliverance?
“Put out your hand,” the Creator said. The girl hesitantly complied.
At first nothing happened. Then, in the empty air above her palm, a sliver of golden light appeared, no thicker than one of her fingers. It slowly grew into a long string.
“This,” explained the Creator, “is what was used to create your world of Ildathore. It is life, it is healing, it is warmth. I give you this power to fight the evil that now approaches, and it shall continue on to your descendants. Be careful that you do not use if frivolously. Guard your heart against pride.”
The girl nodded slowly, trying to take in everything He had just said. After a moment of silence, she hesitantly asked a question. “Why me?”
“Because I chose you,” came the answer.
The string of light moved downwards and dissolved into the girl’s hand. Her skin glowed where it touched her, and the light spread to the rest of her body, and then slowly faded.
Suddenly the girl knew she was alone again. And yet somehow she wasn't. The Presence that had been there still lingered around her.
She took a deep breath and reached for the door handle. It turned, and she stepped out of the room.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped off the gangplank. She wasn't sure if the locked door had been the Creator’s doing or the ship captain’s, but she didn't care to find out.
As soon as she was out of sight of the ship, she stopped to get her bearings. It was still morning, and the sun shone to her left. That’s east, then. The palace is in the center of the city, and I'm on the southeast side.
She chose a road that looked like it was going approximately the right direction and started off down it. Only then did she have enough time to think and realize that she would probably see the boy again, and would definitely see the king. She didn't have many fond memories of him. But the boy…. Can I do it? After what happened?
You have to, came the reply. No matter what he's done, you still love him. And if not for him, at least do it for the people of Cliffhaven.
She took several deep breaths and redoubled her pace.
The boy surveyed the wall. It looked ready.
“Fire!” he called again.
He watched as dozens of streams of oil trickled down the wall towards the same number of torches bellow. Just as it reached them, the men standing behind the wall pulled down on the huge bellows. The wind shot through the pipes and to the holes in the wall just behind the torches, and a giant wall of flame shot forward and scorched every piece of grass within twenty yards that had been missed by the previous blasts.
“Good,” the boy said. “Pipe fourteen, pipe fifty one, you're off. Reposition.”
Two men hurried to the pipes he had named and pointed them back at their holes. Just as they returned the king arrived.
“Impressive work for three hours time,” he said. “Is it ready?”
“Yes,” the boy answered. “Would you like a demonstration?”
He shook his head. “I'd say the huge patch of black grass is proof enough. Why don't we move on to the iron coating on the drawbridge now. If the fire is successful, I'd prefer to have a way to get over the river to finish them off.”
The boy nodded and turned towards the main gate. I sure hope this works. But if it doesn't at least I know she escaped.
That's all that matters to me.
An hour later, the girl stood in front of the front gate of the castle. She slowly forced her feet forward towards it. I have to. She gritted her teeth and walked up to one of the gate guards.
“I need to speak with the king,” she said.
“He's out,” the man answered.
Oh no… “Where?”
“Main gate,” he said. “Weapons testing.”
The girl nodded, spun around, and took off north. After a few minutes she noticed the houses around her getting dingier and the people looking meaner. She slowed to a walk, and finally stopped altogether. Maybe I should've asked directions from someone….
She turned to head back in the direction she had come, but there was a huge man with a curved sword strapped to his waist walking down the alley towards her. Her heart rate quickened.
He's probably just heading to get a drink somewhere, she tried to calm herself. But when she started forward, he moved over to block her path. She turned to run the other direction, but there was another man behind her. Scrambling into a small space between two houses, she looked for anything she could use as a weapon.
There was nothing. No no no! I have to warn him! She ran forward, hoping to make it through to the next street, but there was a fence in the way. When she was only halfway to the top, a rough hand grabbed her and yanked her down.
Her head hit the hard ground, and her world went black.
“…the hundredth time, I told you not to damage her!” a voice snarled. “Who's going to pay ransom for a child with a smashed head?” The girl sat up quickly. When she tried to stand she discovered that her hands were tied behind her back, and one leg was secured to the bench she'd been laying on.
“She’ll wake up,” another voice answered. “Just you wait.”
“It's been five hours!” the other shouted.
Five hours? the girl thought, panicked. That means it's nearly sunset! She struggled desperately to free her hands, but all she managed to do was knock a loose piece of scrap wood to the floor.
“What was that?” the first man asked. There was a moment of silence, and then the girl heard two chairs scraping on the floor. She gave the rope one last desperate tug, and then collapsed back against the wall.
“Look, she's awake!” The second man said triumphantly. “I told you!”
“I didn't say….”
Wait, the girl thought, blocking out their voices. The gift the Creator gave me… might it be able to help me escape?
She took a deep breath and focused all her attention on the rope that tied her hands. Nothing happened. She changed her approach, focusing on her hands and projecting energy outwards. She felt the rope grow warm.
She pushed outward even more, and the rope burst into flame. Strangely, she hardly felt it. It was more of a tingling sensation than burning.
Looking up to make sure the two men were still arguing, she pointed her right hand towards the rope on her leg, and it burst into flame as well. As it did, one of the men stopped talking and sniffed the air. “Do you smell something burning?”
The girl raised her hand and shot a burst of energy at the roof, and it exploded into flame. The men screamed and backed out of the room. The girl lit the wall to her left, and after a few moments it collapsed. She jumped back into the alleyway and hurried north again, no longer worried.
The boy watched, every muscle in his body tense, as the line of blue approached. The ice army was close enough now that he could make out the individual men. Every time the feet of the first rank touched the ground, the unnatural frost spread a few inches further.
The sun came out from behind the thin cloud that had been covering it, and the sunset colors turned the ice to an eeire shade of reddish blue. It might have been beautiful at another time, but not when every second brought nearly certain death that much closer.
He glanced back behind the wall at where six men stood, ready to work the bellows that would hopefully burn the ice army into oblivion. “Prepare to fire!” he called. After watching to make sure they'd heard, he turned to the men on the walls with the oil pails. They were ready, as were the king and his army, who stood behind the main gate.
Several tense minutes passed, and then finally, the first ice soldier set foot on the scorched grass. “Hold!” the boy called, leaning forward. One rank was over, two, three… then they stopped.
What are they—? his thought was interrupted when the first two ranks pulled bows off their backs and each knocked an arrow.
“Fire!” he yelled.
A burst of flame shot forward and hit the first ranks of the ice army. For a few seconds, he couldn't see anything. Then the smoke cleared, and…
Nothing had changed. The ice soldiers still stood, arrows nocked, and tips pointed towards the wall. The small flame of hope that the boy had kept in his heart fizzled out. They had lost.
He heard a crash from behind him and spun around just in time to see a huge building near the docks finish falling. But it hadn't just fallen… there were ice shards scattered all around, and a huge fleet of ships was emptying hundreds of soldiers onto the shore.
Just when he thought nothing else could go wrong, the girl ran up the last few steps to the top of the wall and stopped in front of him.
Written by Elia Tyson
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room