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Chapter 19 - Frozen Dirge

 Chapter 19 - Frozen Dirge

Eight of the bodyguards stepped back in perfect precision and synchronicity. After retreating several paces they rested the ends of their glaives on the ground and stood at attention with their hands on the handles. Sharp eyes peered from heavy armor that sparkled white and gold in the light. They were like eight statues, arranged in a circle to mark the edges of an arena.

Frost de Winter snatched the items from the table. Cloudhawk's mask, the token, and the gospel of the sands where safely in his grip. Frost de Winter returned his equipment to him - not out of respect for the young man, but simply because he didn't take him seriously. The kid didn't stand a chance.

Cloudhawk could tell that this young man, as arrogant as a lone pine on a snowy mountaintop, was also a capable demonhunter. From the moment he met him Frost de Winter was covered in a pervasive, brutal aura that came from an internal strength. Just being around him made Cloudhawk's skin tingle like it was being stabbed by a chill wind.

How was he a match for these soldiers, much less Arcturus Cloude's personal disciple?

Frost de Winter's chiseled body towered over him, like an icy mountain stabbing the sky. His delicate, jade-like armor was immaculate and without a scratch. A white cloak tumbled from his shoulders like a frozen waterfall. His weapon was a near-translucent spear that seemed as though it'd been carved from thousand-year-old ice and wrapped in a silvery material. The blade sparkled and reflected the light around it like a flawless mirror.

A pale blue gemstone was inserted in the body of the blade that added to the dignified beauty of the tool, injecting it with a sense of soul. The melody of a relic's resonance wafted from it. A link to a world of ice and snow.

He stood one hundred and eighty-five centimeters tall. His skin was white as the tundra, his features resolute, and his face was handsome like it'd been masterfully chiseled from stone. His white clothing, silver weapon, the jade headband that held back his hair, his overbearingly arrogant and daring posture... as much as he made Cloudhawk uncomfortable, he had to admit Frost de Winter was the most gallant man he'd ever seen. From his noble countenance to his chilling aura, Cloudhawk couldn't find a single flaw.

With his reputation, might and bearing he was undoubtedly the dream lover of many Skycloud women.

Why was such an outstanding man so stubborn and unreasonable? Rather than chalk it up to a character flaw, Cloudhawk felt like there had to be some reason. He was an insightful and sensitive young man, so he knew there was more beneath the disciple's prideful exterior. There were more sinister intentions at play.

In this magnificent place, faced against the towering and heroic man, a single frail form seemed like nothing. Like putting a piece of polished jade beside a common rock, Cloudhawk might as well have been a street urchin. Their contrast was as sharp as their confrontational feelings.

Frost de Winter's eyes burned with thinly contained loathing. He stared down with regal bearing at the wastelander, almost unable to stop himself from gagging in disgust at the mere sight of him. His words cut through the air, frigid as a winter storm. "You wastelander scum, you think you can stand against three of my attacks? Killing you will be as easy as a wave of the hand."

Cloudhawk had enough sense to know he was in a bad spot, but in the face of the young soldier's aggression he just sighed. "Winning and losing, that's something else. All I can do is try. More than being unreasonable, you're just a bully. You get off on pushing around people weaker than you. And yet you walk around like some self-righteous asshole. But that's all you are. An asshole."

Even against impossible odds, Cloudhawk wasn't going to admit defeat.

He was under no illusions that he was this man's equal, but he wasn't afraid to provoke him. He'd fought through the wastelands, escaping one near-death experience after another, struggling through constant tests and frustrations. He was a stubborn kid, and sometimes it was better to die than to yield.

The silver spear shout out at him like a wild dragon.

Cloudhawk first felt the power emanating from the pale blue gem set in the voulge's blade. It flooded the area with a surge of cold that caused the temperature to plummet five or six degrees and chilled Cloudhawk to the bone. The cold was so intense it swept through a person's soul.

Frozen Dirge! That was the name of this magnificent weapon.

Cloudhawk didn't know the full strength of it, but before his opponent's attack even formed the audience hall was covered in a layer of hoarfrost. Snowflakes whipped through the air.

What an incredible thing! It was no less powerful than the Bloodsoaked Queen's sacred crossblade!

Frost de Winter's skills were nearly on par with Selene's as well, in fact he might have even been better at handling the power of the relic. No wonder, then, that he should be chosen as Lord Arcturus's disciple. With talent like his he had to be head and shoulders more capable than anyone, with the exception of the Bloodsoaked Queen.

This man was a true high-grade demonhunter! Cloudhawk's face was dark and solemn.

He already knew Frost de Winter was no weakling but this was more than that. The likes of Claudia Lunae and Raith Umbra - novice demonhunters only - were difficult enough for him to contend against. How was he supposed to stand against a master and his legendary relic?

Cloudhawk still didn't understand how this could have happened. Hadn't Selene told him everything would be alright? All he had to do was bring the governor the token and the book. That should have been enough to win him a comfortable life in the holy city.

So... what the fuck?!

He didn't have time to puzzle out all this nonsense.

Frost de Winter was coming at him with the full force of his abilities. He threw the spear at Cloudhawk and it came down on him like a meteor. Frost de Winter was confident in his superiority and so forsook any efforts to feel out his opponent. His opening attack was to throw Frozen Dirge for a quick end to this farce.

The spear was almost on him, bringing with it a brutal wind and stinging flecks of ice. They sliced at him like tiny frozen blades and he struggled to keep his eyes open. Cloudhawk was forced to stumble backwards.

From the moment Frost de Winter launched his attack, Cloudhawk knew he was in dire straits.

Frost de Winter had said three strikes, but clearly he never intended for the fight to get that far. This was his first and there was no holding back, he was planning to kill Cloudhawk with the opening blow. The young wastelander held out the Gospel of the Sands, putting anything he could between him and the lethal spear. All of his psychic will poured through the demon artifact.

A sandstorm was whipped into existence.

Countless flecks of sand danced on the wind and amassed to form a bronze-gold shield.

This was Cloudhawk's strongest line of defense. As Frozen Dirge drew near, its mere presence froze the sandy shield, then pierced it through as easily as a sheet of paper.

There was no question, no suspense. The shield was useless.

The instant Frozen Dirge passed through it the shield shattered, falling to the ground as lumps of crushed ice. Pouring all of his psychic power into a shield like this would stop a rifle bullet, but it might as well have been made of silk the way Frost de Winter's spear passed through it.

"Son of a bitch!"

Frozen Dirge kept coming and like the shield Cloudhawk felt a frigid, bone-deep cold fall over him as it got close. He couldn't go anywhere, but standing in place was only going to get him skewered. With no other options he shrunk behind the gospel of the sands for cover.


The spear's mirror-like blade sunk into the book's metallic cover.

A gust of cold white light burst forth, visible to the naked eye. At first Cloudhawk thought the force of the blow would knock him back, but the result was different than he expected. When the spear struck the book indeed there was a blast of force, but it was no typical kinetic energy. It was pure cold, like being caught in a sub-zero ice storm that flooded into his every pore.

As the power enveloped him the gospel of the sands began to freeze solid and his hands along with it. The cold crept up through his body, from his palms, to his wrist, then up his arms.

Not good! I'm gonna freeze!

It was the first time Cloudhawk had faced an attack like this. He wanted to turn and run, but his legs refused to budge. They'd already been frozen to the ground. With no way to fight back he stared in horror as inch by inch, ice covered his body. It spread up to his face, covered his mask, and up over his ears. Finally the unnatural frost covered every hair on his head leaving nothing free. Light glittered along every facet of his frozen prison.

"One attack and you couldn't handle it. So weak, and yet you claim to have slain a demon?"

It was the last thing Cloudhawk heard before he lost consciousness. The cold claimed not only his body, but his mind and will as well. As completely as though he were in shock, all systems shut down. He was a living statue.

The blast of cold not only covered Cloudhawk but the five or six meters behind him as well. The fine carpet was covered in frost, all the way back to one of the columns holding up the ceiling. The ice glittered like crystal.

Frost de Winter gripped the shaft of Frozen Dirge and pulled it free. He swung it around and reattached it to the holster on his back, never taking his eyes off of Cloudhawk. A mocking sneer split his lips as he dismissively waved his left hand. "Put him in solitary confinement to await death. Put five times the guards on him, and never let him out of your sight."

"Yes, Master Frost!"

"Wait. Take the rug, table, chair, and anything else he touched and burn it. I don't want the governor to see any of it when he gets back." Frost de Winter patted his snow-white cloak like a man afraid of being infected after being forced to walk through a cesspool. He felt so inundated with filth he might vomit. The only thing he wanted was to go take a shower. He could soak dozens of times and it might not be enough, he feared. However, he choked back the discomfort long enough to continue giving orders. "Send someone to the Temple to tell the governor. Have him come back as soon as he can."

The guards left to perform their tasks.

Frost de Winter left to take a shower.