The Shieldmaiden Puts Her Shield…
…to a use no dwarven shield has ever been put before: pinning an exarch of Tiamat to the wall.
“The mages must be desperate to save their people. They send outsiders here to do their work. How weak! How pathetic! Soon the storm comes to them, and nothing will escape my wrath!”
— Chillreaver, Exarch of Tiamat
As she stepped into the chamber Chillreaver had constructed to house the Seed of Winter, Relvain Blackaxe was impressed by the terrifying sight.
The room was bathed in blue-white light, with beams focused on a small white object floating atop a pedestal high above her head. The beams seemed to originate from 10 silvery mirrors positioned along the east and west sides of the walkway 30 feet above the secret door they entered through.
Down on the level where she and the Shardmind stood, she could see the base of the pedestal where the beams were focused; the pedestal’s length made it appear almost like an ice obelisk. An energy hung about the room, and the air was colder than they’d felt anywhere else in the complex.
Briefly, she felt an invasive presence in her mind, as if it is searching for something . . . and then it was gone.
She saw that sat upon a rune-inscribed icy dais just in front of the secret entrance to the Treasure Chamber. A gigantic, two-headed white dragon met her gaze, its eyes black as the soulless depths and its mouths smoking with its icy breath.
A dire warning, then it attacked.
Her counter-attack was able to concentrate the dragon’s attention on herself. She and Krasire were able to create an opening so the Shardmind got around to the other side. Rather attacking from both sides, however, they decided the Psion should go about smashing the mirrors which seemed to be powering the small white object — the Seed of Winter, they assumed.
Krasire had some initial success, but he soon disappeared around the corner and Relvain heard no more mirrors breaking. She began to fear for their mission, even though the dragon was having a lot of difficulty hitting her. Trying to escape and bring back some help for Krasire, Relvain backed away from the two-headed dragon.
But the dragon was having none of that. Leaping into the air, it flew into the Treasure Chamber and blocked the only way out. That put its back against the wall and gave Relvain her chance. Her shield-trainers called it The Shield and a Hard Place. Placing her shield against the body of the dragon, she pressed it against the wall of ice, pinning it there.
And Relvain Dragonpinner was born. For the rest of her life, Relvain Blackaxe would remember the helplessness in the Exarch’s four eyes as she held it there.
“A small victory, perhaps,” thought the shieldmaiden, yet it gave her the hope she needed to continue once the dragon broke free.
Eventually, though her strength began to fade and she knew the battle was in the hands of Krasire. Unless he could break the rest of the mirrors, the dragon was sure to outlast her.
Avenglen regarded the enraged dwarf with curiosity. She found him outside the Orb Theatre, owned by a famous Drow Bard named Jerath. The dwarf was passing out handbills, which accused Jerath of plagiarizing some of his work. But it seemed to somewhat short of evidence of actual plagiarism. She went inside and saw the play — a bloody work called Titus Androwdicus — and talked to the main actor after the show. He had other explanations for Murrik Ironfell’s anger.
He knew it was a desperation measure, but Krasire was convinced he had to try something. Mental communication with the Seed of Winter was risky, yet it was something only a Psion like himself could try.
His desperation was well-informed: While the dwarven shieldmaiden was able to battle the two-headed dragon to a standstill — each of them able to damage the other only slowly — he could see she was weakening. The Exarch of Tiamat was simply able to take more damage than the plucky dwarf.
The Seed of Winter and Krasire, on the other hand, had reached a different kind of stalemate. His Irruption of the Living Gate had been able to break two of the mirrors which were powering the Artifact as soon as he had entered the room.
He had hoped to use the Gate to teleport to the upper level of the icy room where the mirrors were. The icy walls were too slick for his to climb. The Seed had stymied this plan with some kind of mental attack. Since that time, the Seed had dominated his mind, forcing him two the far end of the room where eight more mirrors poured energies from all over the world into the Seed itself.
“Why do you serve this dragon?” he asked the Seed. “Why not break free and work with us instead?”
He was not sure such a message would even get through. But answer came nonetheless. He was able to understand the mind of the Seed of Winter to such a degree that only a Psion could achieve. The Seed had four goals which informed its actions.
- Bring the touch of winter to even the most sweltering climes.
- Oppose the agents of the Summer Fey and elemental fire.
- Demand obedience from the weak and frail.
- Be reunited with the Winter Court in the Feywilde.
“We could help you,” he told the Seed. “We could take you to the Winter Court.”
The Concordance the Artifact had reached with the Exarch was too strong. He could tell the offer was tempting the Seed, but Chillreaver was allowing the Seed to bring cold and ice to this tropical Paradise and it was demanding obedience from the Council of Mages who ruled the place.
Their agreement on these two principles had allowed the dragon and the Seed to reach a level of Concordance that practically welded their minds into one. Krasire could see the Exarch was using the Seed of Winter for its own purposes. He also saw it would never see that itself as long as the mirrors were giving it such power.
He had to break the mirrors. First, however, he had to break free of the Seed’s mental grasp.
Then, he got his chance: When the Artifact’s attacks failed, he teleported to the upper level and ran to hide from the Seed’s line of sight in an alcove where the main door was still closed. From there, he was able to finish off the mirrors on the side where his Living Gate had irrupted earlier.
“Fortunately, I was able to preserve my mental powers while I was dominated.”
But some of the mirrors on the other side were out of the reach of his mental blasts. So he ran for a different kind of protection: Each mirror was in its own tiny alcove; by keeping his body pressed against the wall of the nearer alcoves, he was able to stay out of the line of sight of the acorn-shaped Artifact.
He broke the first two mirrors by dashing from alcove to alcove. The third alcove presented a different problem. Situated directly in front of the Seed of Winter, its walls provided him no protection from its line of sight. He knew he could not allow it to resume its domination of his mind.
So he ran behind the mirror and hid from it there. When the Seed shifted its focus to Relvain, he was able to smash the eighth mirror from behind and dash to hide behind the ninth mirror.
The dwarf fell once both the dragon and the Seed were using their powers on her. So, Krasire found himself trapped in the next-to last alcove by the dragon. His Kinetic Wave was perfect for this situation, though, and he used it to blast the mirror and the dragon simultaneously.
The mirror shattered, the dragon was pushed back 20 feet, and he dashed to hide behind the final mirror.
The dwarf had recovered enough to try to distract the dragon from below and another Kinetic Wave shattered the final mirror. As it fell in pieces to the floor 30 feet below, the Seed of Winter fell from its pedestal as well.
The dragon looked around in alarm as a blast of energy crackled through the room. It flew out of the room into its treasure chamber and out a hole in the top of that room — which they had noticed earlier.
Seconds later it became apparent what the dragon was fleeing. A great rumbling sound was followed by deafening cracks. The magic which sustained Icehome was becoming undone, and the whole structure would soon crumble into the sea.
They had to get out of there.
In a hurry.