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Book 4, Chapter 73 - An Eighteen Year Grudge

 Wyrmsole was perturbed by how vicious this battle had become. Then, all at once, the sounds of combat fell silent. When the Crimson One failed to reveal himself Wyrmsole felt an ominous pang in his chest.

Dawn Polaris, Mr. Ink and Barb were keeping the mutants and Hell's Army soldiers at bay. Clay Cloude was keeping ten Conclave priests locked down all by himself.

Concern had stolen an ounce of Wyrmsole's attention, and in that moment a frigid spear came stabbing toward his head. Frost de Winter came charging at him with lethal intent.

He wielded the spear as deftly as petals on the wind, or snowflakes in a storm. Wyrmsole didn't have anywhere to turn.

Frost's mental acuity and martial prowess was the best of his generation. Even Wyrmsole had to cautious or risk being slain. What he didn't understand was why this white-armored, spear wielding young man was so dogged in his desire to kill him!

He suspected Frost didn't see him as merely a foe to be dealt with. To Arcturus' disciple, Wyrmsole was a mortal enemy. What had he done to earn this young man's enmity?

That dark foreboding grew in Wyrmsole's heart. It would only go away once he knew the truth and saw for himself.

He opened his mind completely, spilling his mental energies into Skyfire Banner and holding it aloft. Streaks of fire shot out in a blazing inferno, like countless fiery comets crashing down from the heavens. Coils of flame wrapped around his body, turning into a raging tornado.

The blazing storm stretched out in all directions. All the soldiers were forced to back away or get burned to cinders.

With his red robes flapping in the angry winds, Wyrmsole released the full force of his powers in the middle of the battlefield. He brazenly threw himself at Frost in attempts to kill Arcturus' prized disciple.

Clay's voice shouted over the din. "Fall back! I'll deal with him!"

Such was Wyrmsole's skill. Few from the Elysian lands could withstand his full wrath. If caught in the deluge of flame, Frost would be killed or maimed without question.

Yet he turned a deaf ear to the pleas of his keeper. Cold fury seethed behind his eyes, and as straight as an arrow he launched himself into the flaming tornado.

Frozen Dirge trembled, sensing the emotion from its bearer. Runes began to appear upon the weapon's surface etched in frost, causing the air the crystallize. The ground below turned pale and covered in hoarfrost, while moisture immediately turned to snowflakes and were caught on the wind.

Frost' body was the center of his own frozen domain. As he leaped off the ground toward his foe, his spear shining brilliantly, he stabbed it toward the heart of the fiery tornado with deadly precision.

A firestorm? His spear would break it apart!

In the meeting of strength and zealous faith, the resulting explosion of energy was deafening!

Frost's spear of ice collided with its antithesis in the fire storm. Two mighty, opposing energies clashes and while in theory they should cancel each other out, the fire storm was stronger. An overwhelming pressure like the weight of a mountain descended upon the battlefield.

For a moment the silver spear held. Then it started to buckle. The inferno centered on the weapon trying to break through.

Cracks appeared in Frost's resplendent armor and his hair curled from the heat. The skin on his hands and face began to burn, for at the final tally he was too weak to withstand his opponent's attack.

Flames, steam and snow were flung every which way. Frost could see his defeat encroaching.

Clay fumbled through his clothing and pulled out a small blue orb. It was something entrusted to him by the Cloude family, meant to be used against the Crimson One or similarly terrible foe.

Frost's life was in danger. Arcturus had put a lot of faith in his one disciple, he couldn't perish! Se he crouched down, looking for his moment to strike.

Frost was on rapidly weakening footing. In this desperate struggle more power bloomed from within him, summoning more ice and snow from the ether. They were all caught up in a sudden blizzard.

Ice and fire raged, each vying for supremacy. Frost managed to fight back from the brink. Was this true power he'd been hiding all this time?

Clay stood down and decided to hold on to the item Arcturus had given him. While Wyrmsole was among those he was told to kill, he wasn't their main target. Better to save it as a wild card for when it would be most effective.

Wyrmsole sensed the sudden outpouring of strength from his young contender. With it came a surge of hatred and bloodlust.

Frost roared at the older demonhunter in anger. Enormous spears of ice cut through the blizzard like spears, flying through the fire storm in search of a target. As their conflicting power continued to fight for dominance he inched closer and closer to Wyrmsole. Meanwhile, the Crimson One's closest ally was at a loss. He'd had no interactions with this boy, yet still his attacks were hysterical and angry like he'd been personally wronged.

Why? What was his motivation?

The distance between them continued to shrink. Fallowmoor was split into a world of fire and a world of ice, and while the mighty warriors became locked in a stalemate all the rest of the battlefield was flung into chaos.

"What hatred do you carry, that even now you refuse to give voice to?"

"With everything that happened in White Pine Village, do you remember nothing?" Frost's words came through gritted teeth. "Maybe you've forgotten, but I never will!"

A shock went through Wyrmsole. White Pine Village - a small settlement in Skycloud.

It was a small place few people had even heard of, especially since it was wiped off the map over a decade ago. Wyrmsole was the man responsible for its destruction.

Frost glared at him through the ice and flames, murder in his eyes. "I am here to make you pay for everything!"

He'd been waiting for this for eighteen years! Now the day had finally arrived.

The years had taken all of his hate and anger and pain and condensed it into rock-hard vengeance. He poured all of it into his attack, dredging every ounce of strength within him and making himself stronger. The sheer emotion of it shattered his latest bottleneck and forced him to new heights of power.

The stalemate shattered. Frozen Dirge had just the break it needed to dash into the heart of the firestorm.

Wyrmsole sought to protect himself, but it was too late. Frozen Dirge caught him in the chest, digging deep. Wyrmsole reached out to grab the body of the spear but Frost shoved him away and wrenched his weapon free.

The red-robed veteran came crashing back to ground like a falling star. He was followed by a roaring winter storm that blanketed the ground in frost.

Wyrmsole felt his body go stiff. Even his blood froze as it seeped from the wound. Surprise overtook him at being defeated by the young man. As his vision became muddled and his thoughts unclear, Frost was gathering himself to end their fight.

A long jade-liked sword rang ominously as it was drawn from its sheath. Its blade shimmered like pure ice. The sword was cold personified, but not as cold as the murderous intent in Frost's eyes.

For a moment those cold eyes were the only thing Wyrmsole could see. Their pierced him like an arrow, burning through his mind like a thunderbolt. Memories that had long lain dormant in the back of his mind swam to the surface.

Eighteen years ago...

Wyrmsole wasn't Wyrmsole back then. He'd been a leader of the Demonhunter Corps and personal assistant to the governor.

He was then what Augustus Cloude was now, one of Arcturus' closest confidants. He knew all of the Governor's secrets, and had performed many ugly deeds in his name.

Word came to them of a rebel organization taking root in White Pine Village.

It was never discovered whether the townsfolk were bewitched or just lied to, but they began to question the existence of gods. If there were no gods, they argued, then all of the supposedly offensive things they were forbidden from doing meant nothing. They began to do as they pleased without fear of being called blasphemers, and their mutiny was beginning to ripple across the region. Since it was an open act of defiance, there was no need at the time to get Hell's Army involved.

Under orders from the Governor, Wyrmsole lead a contingent of demonhunters to the town and razed it to the ground. Indeed razed was the right term, for the firestorm he summoned disintegrated most buildings and their denizens. After the village was mostly destroyed, the soldiers he'd brought came in to kill anyone else who defied Skycloud's rule.

Wyrmsole did not stop until nothing remained of White Pine Village. Thousands of women and children were kept alive as prisoners.

At the time Wyrmsole doubted the entire village was in on this rebellion. He was going to report back to his superiors and let the prisoners go, only leadership had different ideas. His request to free what remained of the villagers was denied. He was told only one thing:

Kill them all.

Every single person from the village was slain that day. They were branded heretics and turncoats, and burned alive.

Wyrmsole had no choice but to commit the murders himself. He remembered the screams of the old, the women, the children as their bodies burned. It was the first time he questioned his faith. Why were so many innocent lives sacrificed? Just to protect the authority of these gods?

Every second was torture. He had to leave, had to get free! The troops were ordered to withdraw, and as Wyrmsole prepared to leave he discovered something.

The soldiers had missed two children hiding in the ruins. The older one could only have been six, and the other too young to even speak. They were siblings by the looks of them, and the older brother was trying to bravely hide his younger brother from view. He remembered the cold, angry eyes that stared at him as he passed.

He had to kill these children, it was his orders. But he chose not to.

He remembered the older boy clearly, even all these years later. It was his eyes, they were different from any other eyes he'd seen, and colder than any child's eyes had a right to be.

Just like these eyes.

So that was it. He understood now.

He never would have thought that his one moment of weakness would mean his downfall.

Frost de Winter was a survivor of White Pine's destruction. Had he come here to avenge what happened all those years ago? Wyrmsole could see now where the young man's hatred stemmed from. He must have watched as his parents were murdered, and Wyrmsole was the one who ordered it.

But he realized too late!

Wyrmsole saw his time had come, but there was no fear in his expression. In its stead was a deep wish for repentance, and a shadow of relief. "It's you, child. It's really you. Who'd have thought you would grow to be so incredible. You know... I have lived these last years in pain and self-loathing. Every time I close my eyes I see the fires. I can hear the screams when I try to sleep. To die at your hand is right and proper."

Frost kept coming. He never said a word.

"This is retribution for my sins. I have committed many wrongs, death is not enough to atone for them. But at least falling by your hand will cleanse me of some small measure of this awful debt." Wyrmsole's leathery, plain features were at peace. He looked back at the man who would kill him with pity. "Killing me is easy. But how will you - who walks in a world of ice and snow - face a destiny darker and colder than you've ever known?"

"With my sword!" Frost growled in answer.

Wyrmsole's head rolled across the ground, eyes wide as though it was the weight of Frost's words that had killed him and not the blow from his sword.

Frost stood over the body, a bloodied sword in one hand and his spear in the other, buried deep in the priest's body. He pulled it free.

A sound like a shattered chandelier filled the air as Wyrmsole's frozen corpse hit the ground and broke apart. As the icy chunks slid across the battlefield Frost didn't even spare them a second glance. Though nothing registered on his stoic expression, in his heart there was a flood of emotion.

Finally! He'd finally killed that fiend Wyrmsole! But it wasn't enough...

He had just been a heretic, a soldier exacting someone elses' orders. If Frost was to truly avenge the death of his parents and all those villagers, there was more blood his weapons would need to spill. A figure that loomed large in everyone's mind.

It was the man who bestowed upon him a new life, and responsible for changing his destiny. The man who gifted him with strength and wisdom.

When the object of your hatred was your entire world, when it was the person you admired and looked up to, what were you supposed to do? Wyrmsole's words were prescient; there was a dark and dismal road ahead for him, where the cold threatened to snuff him out. Whatever decision he ultimately made would cast him into an abyss he would not ever escape from.

Wyrmsole was dead.

Killed at the hands of a younger and inferior man.

What remained of the Wastelands Alliance stared in shock and disbelief.

Clay wasn't sure what had transpired. The battle had been fierce, and the dual storms of ice and fire made it difficult to see. He only witnessed the end result.

"Good. Good, good! People continue to underestimate you. You are not one bit inferior to Selene Cloude!" Clay walked over to Frost, crushing pieces of Wyrmsole beneath his feet. "The Governor's faith and efforts in raising you have not been wasted!"

Upon killing Wyrmsole, Frost quickly brought his emotions back under control. He regained the typical dispassionate facade he was famous for. "There are too many of them. We must retreat."

1. My creating writing course in college had an interesting thing that's stuck with me. My instructor said 'if you show a gun in act one, you've got to use it by act three.' Now that we've all seen this blue orb, we know it'll be coming back soon. However, keeping us guessing is a clever and effective ploy. However, the author runs the danger of not using it, or making it insufficiently bad-ass to justify the waiting. I will probably never watch Constantine (with Keanu Reeves) again because whatever kick ass thing he was supposed to do with those tattoos on his arms never happens. I'm still pissed off about it. Of course, Tipsy has shown that he has no problem bringing stuff back from dozens of chapters ago.

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