Rogue Stranger - The Mist - Chapter 40 - Holding Her Last Breath
Castamir had thrown himself upon her, saving her from her self-made destruction.
It was dark because his thick black cloak covered them both. That cloak... Rowen knew it could withstand many things, but how they had created any type of fabric that could withstand the blast she had created, Rowen had no idea. She couldn't think anymore... she didn't need to. She had given that blast of fire her all... she shouldn't even be alive now... what was he doing? It would have been all over if he didn't interfere.......... No matter now. Everything was slipping away anyhow. How cold this was! Where was the fire now? The noise began to fade from her hearing....
Sweat beaded down Castamir's face as he held tight the cloak around himself and Rowen. The explosion had been deafening, and he had barely reached her in time. Even the stone beneath them became blistering hot as it heated rapidly, but strangely Rowen's body felt so cold beneath him. Fortunately Castamir had jumped on her from the front, pushing her back and staying away from the major direction of the blast. As chance would have it, they had landed on an embankment of stone that had not been immersed in the blood water. Still, massive clouds of brewing destruction fumed around them. Castamir's cloak was put to an ultimate test. He now knew that the part of the prophesy, "Killed will He be in fiery assault, the drums of old beating their cry" had been fulfilled.
After what seemed like forever, the noise and light dyed down. The temperature fell from searing to a waving dull heat. Castamir lifted his head and pushed his body off of Rowen's, kneeling to the side of her. Slowly he picked his torso from hers, gently lifting himself up. Small fires smoldered dully everywhere.
"Rowen..." Castamir called softly, shaking her shoulders. She didn't move. "Rowen," He called again, more urgently, slapping her face. Her head only rolled to the side. "Rowen, wake up! Rowen, please, wake up," Still no response. He had protected her; why would she not wake up? What had gone wrong?
Castamir bit his lip. The Master was gone; the plan had succeeded. Now it would be easy to fuel the master-less dragon power toward his own goals.... Castamir looked at Rowen's ashen face.
The Master wasn't all that was gone.
Castamir, still kneeling next to Rowen, put her arms around her neck and shoulders and began to gently lift up her unmoving body from the stone. Her head simply lolled backwards, dangling her dripping hair below her. Her mouth was slightly parted, no breath passing through it. Castamir lifted her shoulders gently and leaned down to her, wrapping his arms around her and putting his forehead to her shoulder. How strange this was, making bitter his awesome triumph. He never knew someone who could cause such chaos and at the same time so much emotion from him of all people. For the first time in his life, Castamir did not know what to do, what should be done, or what orders to give.
As Castamir held Rowen tightly, Rowen's hand slipped from her lap and her arm fell out beside her. From her unmoving fingertips rolled a frosted glass flask. Castamir lifted his head upon hearing the glass roll onto the stone. There was no more water on the stone now; it had all burned away. The glass rolled slowly over the edge of the stone....
It fell off and cracked open. For a second, there was nothing. Then a brilliant light burst forth.
From the glass, that flask Larenteth had given Rowen a long time ago, poured out a frozen liquid that crystallized as it hit the stone and began spreading in an enormous sweep over the entire floor. How quickly it flew, taking over the charred rock in crystallized blue-white ice. Castamir held Rowen to his shoulder as he turned his head this way and that, watching the ice overtake everything it its path. It did not melt at all despite covering the incredibly hot rock. Castamir did not know how this could be scientifically possible, but whatever was happening it cooled the stone so fast that the ice could settle atop without melting. He watched with worried eyes as the ice crawled swiftly in their direction. As it neared, Castamir shut his eyes and held his breath in anticipation. The crinkling, scratching sound of ice forming went all around them, but as Castamir opened his eyes he realized the ice had left a space around him and Rowen, sparing them from a chilling end. The ice also left a space where the heart of the Master Dragon had been, though now there was nothing left; the body had been engulfed and incinerated in the fireball. All the fires left smoldering in the giant cave dyed in the face of the advancing ice, dissipating away. Everything went dark, but the ice itself began to give off a sort of glow, giving the cavern a dim blue light.
By now the entire cave was encased and lined with smooth ice. Here and there speckled outcroppings of icicles and jagged shards of frost, but the rest was glossed in a seamless finish. It was so cold it seemed that time would freeze. Castamir recognized this odd ice, this dim blue light. It was the same as in the Cascadelunara.
Something moved beneath the ice in the blink of an eye. Impossible! Thought Castamir. There is only stone underneath that ice! But again he saw it.
Something was defiantly moving there.
Hesitantly, Castamir looked over his safe circle that was void of ice and peered into the glassy surface that covered the rest of the cavern. At first, he only saw his reflection. Then his eyes began to look past that. What he should have seen was the surface of the stone as it had been a few minutes ago, and he almost saw that. But something else was behind that, like an allusion. It seemed like below the ice there was a chamber that went down for eternity, full of glassy slopes, running water, waterfalls, tunnels.... He blinked and tore his eyes from the sight just as another flash caught his attention.
The ice to his right suddenly cracked, forming another outcropping of icicles like something had tried to come out of it.
The same thing happened to his left. Castamir looked about wildly, still clutching Rowen's limp form, and then fearfully eyed what was in front of him. There, on the spot where the Master had been, where the ice had not formed, something huge was moving beneath the surrounding ice in a circle. Round and round it went, circling the bare spot of stone until the ice around it rose up and frosted it over as well. For a moment, everything was still and silent.
Then the ice in front of them shattered.
Something just as big as the Master Dragon but far more sleek crashed upwards through the ice, its long neck arcing as it erupted. It was whiter than snow, and with its arrival came a flurry of snowflakes.
It was a dragon... of ice.
The sleek, lithe dragon landed heavily but gracefully as it slid over the smooth ice, swishing to a halt right in front of Castamir and Rowen. Its body seemed to be one long, flawless mass with gentle curves. It's sleek head slid right into a long, slick neck that widened over the shoulders, smoothed over the waist with a slight bulge at the hind legs and then taped down a long tail. There were no angles or rough edges - it did not even have scales. Rather, it seemed to be a combination of a slick rubber-like coat and incredibly fine, soft fur. On closer inspection, it did have four legs, but each was so tightly positioned to the body that it all seemed as one. It had no apparent claws, and the paws seemed to be slightly more furred than any other part of the flaccidly-moving body. Sleek was really the only word to describe this dragon's every feature. Small ears angled close to the head, and the wings were particularly strange. They had thick bases rooted to the shoulder blades, but instead of curving up and over they were pretty straight, only slightly curving backwards with the direction of the body, more like blades than anything else. And instead of bat-like wings, the smooth webbing of the wings only connected straight from the body up to the tip, lining their supports and yet having no supports in between. Icicles lined the wings like frozen tapering crystals. On the very end of the tail, thick cylindrical spikes, very much like the Master Dragon's, protruded in an array of prongs - the only thing sharp about this dragon, other than its mind. It was beautiful, but in a different way than the Master. It did not present an aura of fear in brute strength the way the Master did, but it was obviously lethal just the same.
"Who are you to call me?" Came a decisively deep female voice, sweetly resounding through the crystallized cave - but the dragon's mouth never moved.
"W-What are you? I have only heard of the Master Dragon, never another so immense. Where do you hide?" Castamir answered timidly.
"Hide?" The dragon replied, cocking her head as if insulted. "I live in the stone, in my illusions of ice. The Cascadelunara, as you call it, is my link to the surface world, though it has long remained idle. As for my existence: for every Master, there is a Mistress."
"You knew the Master, then?"
"I knew of him, though he never knew me. He could feel I was here, but he did not know me; I am not his consort. Long years has it been since I was called. Why have you called me?" The dragon repeated.
"I didn't, Row... Rowen did." Castamir cast his eyes down to the still form in his arms.
"She didn't make it, though I don't know why."
The dragon peered at Rowen for a moment, still speaking to Castamir. "You ask many questions, and you do not know many things I see. I know why she is like that."
Castamir looked quickly up. "Please tell me?"
The dragon picked her majestic white head up. "If it shall end your useless questions, then yes. Then you will tell me how she got that flask." The dragon said, indicating the broken glass from which the ice had spread. "When a dragon breathes fire, its body struggles to reach equilibrium so the dragon itself is not consumed by heat. If equilibrium is not reached, the blood would boil and the heart explode. So, the body itself reacts by sending a cooling enzyme out to maintain body temperature. That enzyme is sent automatically out in dragons, and the fire that remains in their bodies keeps it from becoming too cold.
Rowen's body works the same way because of those bands. However, she gave all the fire she had left in her into whatever cause befell her, and I imagine there was nothing left to counter the coolant."
"So she... is dead then," Castamir said slowly.
Castamir looked up again quickly. "How?"
"More questions! My existence is not to be badgered by petty elves." The dragon said disdainfully. She shook her head, sending a flurry of snow and icicles cascading downwards. "The girl is holding her last breath. The cold brought by her dropping liquid frost from my caverns has slowed her heart but not killed her. I don't know where she got that liquid from my caverns of illusion, but the broken glass is over there; this is what called me.
She has one last breath, and because she dropped that glass, the outside temperature is matching her body temperature and causing her to hold that last breath. When I leave, she will release that breath and die, For I must take my ice back with me."
"Isn't there anything you can do to help her?"
The dragon peered at Castamir a moment, then narrowed her crystalline-blue eyes in disgust. "I know you. You are the one who has upset the major hoard of dragons, disrupting their way of life and effecting dragons everywhere. You killed the Master Dragon, didn't you?"
"Why would I, Mistress of these mountains, help you who delve far deeper than necessary into them? If my mind were like that of the Master Dragon, a mortal beast of reality, I would destroy you and your halls in a single minute. But I am a dragon of illusion and ice in a place filled with fire. The matters of you beings I do not meddle, for my interaction would disrupt the balance of this world. I am not bent on petty revenge like your kind.
I do not capture and use spirited females and kill them." The dragon finished, indicating Rowen. "Now, where did she get that ice?"
"I don't know! She just dropped it. Larenteth, another elf, probably gave it to her."
The Mistress considered this a moment thoughtfully. Then she continued to regard Castamir skeptically. "If you truly want her back, give her your dragon stone, I know you have one, and give back the power you took from her. I say this not for you; I say it in hopes that when she wakes she will kill you... unless your true color shows itself.
Make you decision fast, you only have until the ice disappears." The dragon slid smoothly around and propelled herself upwards, twisted over so that she plunged headfirst into the ice below. With a smooth whip of her long slick tail, the dragon was gone.