The Isle of Dread

Viper helped Marina Prayer up the steep cliff. It was now well below freezing and skies looked as if it might rain.

The temperature quickly went down every minute it got closer to dusk and every step they had gone up the mountain.

After Marina had beaten the troll senseless, she had begun to work on freeing Viper. Somehow, she was able to push Viper’s huge sword through the troll flesh and get it to him. Viper cut himself free, grabbed his backpack, grabbed her (which was quite unnecessary), and began making as much distance between them and the monster as possible.

Viper then said that the troll blood would probably attract other monsters, so it would be best to take to the mountains. It would slow them down, but it would be safer where their smell would be less detectable to ground-moving creatures.

“My hands are numb. Can we build a fire?”, asked Marina.

“Keep quiet.”, replied Viper, “It isn’t that cold.” Marina hated that. “Then why are you shivering?” “What?”, said Viper.

Marnia walked up to Viper, saying “You’ve been shivering and sniffling more than me.” She put her hand on Viper’s head. He moved away, angry at her condescendence.

“You’re burning up! You must have a flu. Why didn’t you say something?”, asked Marina.

“I didn’t notice.”, replied Viper, “We’d better continue.” In reality, he had noticed it, but kept his mind away from it, believing his tribe’s teachings that acknowledging the sickness helped it spread.

Marina began casting a healing spell, but Viper told her to save it incase they really needed it. She had already used her white magic to totally heal the troll wound on Viper’s face. Very different than that of black magic, which came from the very objective, very mathematical art of channeling the natural magic that surrounded the planet and focusing it for one’s own benefit, white magic originated from various immortals, people who were born on that world, but had discovered one of the various, very challenging, very secretive paths to transcending the material plane. Few on the planet held the knowledge to even begin such quests, and fewer still could ever hope to get past the first step.

Most immortals had followers, who took on the various philosophical or theological ideas of their immortal. St. Judecris advocated aid to the poor and needy as well as the worship of a higher power, Lemeika, goddess of love and healing.

Some immortals dubbed themselves as gods and filled the role as deities to various cultures. Others even gave the title of god or goddess to their followers, just without the part about not dying.

Marina had joined the followers of St. Judecris because she wanted to help people. She felt great empathy for people, especially when they were in pain. When the people she cared for were in pain or distress, she felt it too, and this started her need to help people. She attended a monastery in Threshold, an out of the way outpost city in the western part of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. White magic came naturally to her, but she still worked hard at it and became the best out of all of the students at the monastery at casting the spells. The monastery also spent some time on self-defense using weapons and armor, incase a holy war was ever brought upon the church. There was one problem. Marina hated combat.

She could do just fine without swinging heavy objects in front of her to produce horrible and sickening wounds. Another problem was that she felt sorry for the victims. Even though she knew that anyone who attacked someone while unprovoked got what they deserved, she couldn’t help but feel bad for causing such pain, in anyone. But she tried her best anyway and, at least to her standards, got pretty good at it.

After the monastery, she joined the sisters of the temple to Lumeika in Threshold, which was where she met Everett. The elf and dwarf were always in the temple after wounds they received from one of their many mercenary missions. Soon afterwards, the three became close friends, and finally, Marina decided to simply join them on their work. It would help them better if she was able to get to the wounds soon after they had been inflicted and she wanted to spend some time with Everett. Soon afterwards, the two became lovers. Both Everett and Stalfor, reputably the finest warriors in the Grand Duchy, (especially by themselves) helped improve her combat efficiency as they traveled and she became better at fighting. But sometimes her emotions took control of her, like they did when she saved Viper from the troll. She had cried; cried because she was sad she had to bash the troll’s skull in, but sadder still at the pain and helplessness that Viper was in.

And crying was not taken kindly amongst those in the mercenary trade….

Viper and Marina climbed to the peek of the mountain and beheld an awe-inspiring sight.

“Whoa.”, said Viper.

“How beautiful.”, said Marina.

A great volcano, with smoke rising from its tip high into the clouds, sat at the edge of the island. But instead of the smoke being ash black, the gas that was coming out looked pure white, like clouds, and lightning crackled from within the clear smoke. The volcano then rumbled and large pieces of what looked like white rocks burst out and showered over the mountain.

“Strange.”, said Viper.

With that, they continued their march. A few hours later, they were crossing over a frozen lake, when Marina stepped on a weak spot and disappeared under the ice. “Shit!”, cried Viper. He began to count as he took out his rope and ran to the nearest object, tying it around a tree stump. He then started to strip off his plate mail and clothes as quickly as possible. He would have to pull her out, and if she lived, build a fire. He had reached 69 when all his clothes were off and then dove in. A thousand daggers stabbed into him and his sight went away. The barbarian swam deeper into the lake, wondering how deep it was. He closed his eyes and tried to focus. When he opened them again, everything was blurry, be he thought he could see a glint from below. He released his breath as he went deeper to keep the water pressure on him constant. Finally, he hit the bottom. He was going to try to carry her as he climbed the rope but he now realized this wasn’t going to work. He had very limited use of his arms and legs in the freezing water and lifting her and her plate mail would be impossible. He instead just tried to tie the rope around her where she lay, but he now had no use of his fingers and could only make a simple knot around her. It would have to do. He then bent down and pushed up as hard as his legs would push, at the same time pulling on the rope. He began making it back up the rope without her. His body was numb, his lungs ached for air, and he was feeling very drowsy.

He closed his eyes and thought back to the endurance tests he faced to take to enter into manhood in his tribe. He had laid in an large ant mound as the insects surrounded him. He blocked the revulsion from his mind and allowed the repeated stings of thousands of fire ants as his friends and kin taunted him. He remembered how the taunts had helped him through it somehow, had stopped him from backing out and sweeping the painful ants off his body. He pictured them taunting him again in his mind. With some amount of renewed determination, he pulled harder and harder on the rope, determined to pull him self out from this icy death.

He gave a great gasp for air as he penetrated the top of the lake.

It was hailing.

“NOOO!!!!!”, he cried out to the heavens, feeling as if cursed by every god. Stalk naked and wet in hailing weather and freezing temperatures, Viper pulled himself out of the frozen lake and began to pull on the rope with all his strength, which at that point was nearly non-existent. Up and up it came, until it finally brought up a ghostly white Marina.

Viper undid her plate mail and began pushing the water out of her stomach. Finally, Marina awoke slightly, vomiting what seemed to be the entire lake. She was incoherent though and suffering from shock.

Viper began ripping off her clothes as small chunks of ice pelted them both. “No. Stop it.”, she said, but with absolutely no energy to retaliate. Viper ignored her and ripped off her pants and undergarments and then unrolled his sleeping bag. It was fortunate it was made of thick furs, coated and hardened with animal fat for the best protection against the elements. He couldn’t make a fire in the hailstorm. The only way they’d survive the night is to absorb each other’s heat.

He pulled her naked form into the sleeping bag, buttoned it, threw a blanket over their heads, and wrapped his arms around her tightly. In most circumstances, this would have been a pleasurable experience for Viper, but realistically, he couldn’t follow through with that idea even if he wanted to. Viper drifted into a sleep he hoped he would wake up from as hail beat down on the both them from above the life-giving hides.

Everett looked up from his crystal ball, fire burning in his eyes.

By on May 30, 2001
Last modified on June 9, 2016

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