Illusions

The halls were lined with metal torch holders that protruded from the walls. They ended in spikes that were screwed and jabbed crudely into the walls of ice. None of the torches were burning anymore in this part of the facility. It seemed abandoned.

The entire dungeon had been carved out of the Grand Southern Glacier many centuries ago. It functioned as a prison of the Gifted.

A pair of dragonhide boots walked the halls. In them, was a very old pair of feet. The soft and yet tough leather lining insulated the man quite well from the cold, and the scintillating scales offered some of the best protection fathomable.

He turned a corner, and still heard only silence to accompany the sound of his own footsteps echoing down the frozen halls. And yet, the old man could feel in his very bones that he was not alone in the prison. At this realization, his silver-trimmed robes leaned away from the way he was walking.

It was a dead-end corridor, but a very important one nonetheless.

To be more precise, it ended in a fork. The corridor split in two. However, those two paths met each other around one round turn.

In the midst of that turn, the man stopped and stared at the wall. That portion was barred and supported with a black metal of Belendar's making.

The ice was different. It was clear as glass.

The body that hung amidst the ice was an ancient, muscular body. All it wore was a loincloth. The skin was craggy and scarred, and yet full of frozen vitality. Every hair was a different shade of gray. And the face was familiar, though it would have been more familiar to the robed man had it been cleanly shaved.

On the chest, there was a black pigmentation. A tattoo. A howling wolf bearing the twisted horns of a ram.

A shiver of something other than cold ran down the old man's spine, though he knew that what he saw was an illusion. The beating heart encased in that ice was not that of who it appeared to be.

And the sword stuck firmly in the ice behind him - that too was an illusion.

The warden had not abandoned his post.

Somehow, the warden had been overpowered.

Two bars of black were joined by a chain and lock of similar make.

An old hand with many rings turned a white key within it, and took the chain and lock away. Then another touched the ice gently, and it gave way like soft clay moving of its own accord, vertical obsidian bars sliding away as well from where they had been unlocked. Then, there was a foul odour of unclean flesh as the warden fell from the opened cleft in the icy prison.

He wore armour of the same black metal, from toe tip to head top.

And the false sword slowly gave way to dust.

Dazed, the man in the armour looked up, "Gwydion, is 'at you?" His voice was frayed and empty.

"It is I," said the man in the silver-trimmed robe. "I feared you were dead. Two days ago, it was reported that a small part of Winterealm ceased to exist some time in the last two changes of the moon. Thus, I assumed you had betrayed us. Clearly, you are not the traitor. So tell me, Warden Marshonn, how did Wolfram escape?"

"V-vollo-hck-meer," was all the warden could manage to say, as he began to wheeze and cough.

"My son... has freed Wolfram?" Gwydion was in disbelief. With one hand, he clung to his own snowy white beard.

Marshonn nodded.

"Then your niece, Arianwen, must already be dead," pronounced Gwydion. Then he leaned down and began to project a soothing darkness from his hands.

Beneath it, Marshonn spat out one last bit of yellow bile from his open visor and then began to sleep. There were tears below is empty eyes. Like wounds, the scratch marks on his plated armour disappeared, and the chainlinks mended anew.

Alas, must we beg Summerealm for assistance yet again? pondered Gwydion in desperation.

The End

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