Chapter #3: Remnants of the Old

Title page: Malavir is sitting on a tree branch, casually eating an apple, while below the branch there's a dummy hung, used for young Cobalt to train his archery skills, yet by the arrows spread across the ground and stuck in a tree itself, the boy isn't doing particularly well

Cobalt pulled the wooden doors, making them open with a loud creak. Their right wing instantly flew out of its hinges and toppled to the side, making Kylie jump at the sudden noise while a ear-piercing 'kyah' escaped her mouth. The blue-haired teen gave her a doubting glance once more while the girl gave out a forced laugh, scratching the back of her head as a large drop of sweat run down her face.

Shifting his attention forward, the young adventure hunter proceeded into the castle with the rogue following suit carefully. As they stepped inside, the cold breeze joined them, spreading through the empty halls. Cobalt glanced down the thin tunnels that stretched far, beyond his sight. The passages were decorated with painting hanging on the gray walls and sets of armor standing guard next to doors, most of which were already rotten. Time hasn't spared the rest of the objects within the fortress as the windows lacked sufficient amount of glass, rust began eating the metal of the armors and some of the painting already beginning to weather. Icicles hung from the ceiling in concert with rim that covering the glass than wasn't broken and snow that gathered on the floor.

Aside from the howling wind echoing through it, no sound came from the castle, further proving the theory it was deserted. The sheer size of the place left the blue-haired boy somewhat discouraged: sweeping the area will take days, if not weeks and he still wasn't sure what he was even looking for: This adventure might prove more troublesome I've anticipated he let out a sigh and shifted his gaze to the female thief.

"What?" Kylie asked, noticing the stare.

"Well, you're the rogue" Cobalt replied with a shrug. "You should know where to look for an artifact of value, should you not? So what should be our destination?"

"Logically something powerful enough to curse an entire area is extremely valuable, so you would want to keep it safe" the girl pondered, rubbing her chin. "Some sort of vault is a good idea and those are commonly located in the lower levels as those are harder to escape – you can't just jump out the window. Another possibility is that the owner would like to keep it close for extra protection; if that is the case we will likely find the relic where the master of this house is or at least in a room he frequented..."

"Such as?"

"His bedroom... the throne room... something like that" the thief purposed thoughtfully. "The latter should be easier to locate as it should be a large chamber entire near the center of the castle or close to the entrance" she went on, looking around.

"Than lets make that our first destination" the blue-haired boy nodded. "Lead the way..."

"Me?!"

"You're supposed to disarm any traps we come across; it's only logical for you to be at the front."

"You would heartlessly put an innocent girl in danger for your own gain?!" Kylie shoot back, playfully appalled by the inclination.

"First of all: you're a thief and that hardly classifies you as 'innocent'" Cobalt noted with a straight face. "And secondly: even if you are a thief, we are partners and I will not allow anything to happen to my companions!" he announced firmly with confidence, making the girl's eyes widen at the statement while a tiny blush found its way onto her cheeks. Taken by surprise with such a bold proclamation, she eventually nodded and glanced down the hall, judging the route.

"This way is as good as any to try" she said, moving forward with the other teen following. They walked carefully with Kylie closely scanning the surroundings for any traps or ambush, but as far as she could tell there were none, making their march a rather uneventful. The young adventure hunter narrowed his eyes at this after a few minutes; something was a miss here, but for now there was no point in jumping to conclusions.

The hallway led them straight as none of the branches seemed worth taking. After a certain amount of time, the young rogue turned left and proceeded deeper into the castle, hoping to reach its heart with a shortest route. The tunnel, virtually the same as all others, ended at a thick, wooden doors with golden engravings, seemingly more extravagant than others they passed up til that point.

Cobalt pushed the doors open, allowing them to enter a spacious chamber where two rows of columns stretched to the far side of the room, ending at an elevated throne. The pillars were snow-white, blending with heaps of mercury that laid around hall. The temperature seemed to be lower here than in the rest of the castle, but despite the ice claiming nearly every inch of the walls, this part of the building looked to be in much better shape than others.

They walked forward, both glancing around suspiciously, expecting some sort of a trap, yet they reached the other end of the room without incident, gazing upon the chair settled before them; the throne was rather large for an average person, made of dark wood and crimson material. The seat was overblown, which came as no surprise to the young adventure hunter, but the most eye-catching element of it was not the chair itself, but rather what was in it.

Sitting motionless on the throne was a humanoid figure - only slightly larger than average – clad entirely in a black armor with a t-shaped hole on the front of the helmet for eyes, granted now the cut was a gaping space of darkness with no life apparent beneath the headgear. The helmet itself sported twin, ram-like horns, while the lower parts of the armor housed small spikes, most concentrated on the shoulder-pads, gauntlets and knees. The still knight held in its hand the handle of a sword, which blade was pointed downwards, struck halfway into the floor, the visible side mostly covered in thick ice.

Still Cobalt couldn't help but admire the weapon; aside from the craftsmanship put into it, the design was a marvel in itself with the handle as black as its wielder fashioned into spread, bat-like wings and a dragon head in between with a pair of small, shining sapphires that served for the reptile's eyes. The pommel looked like a star, but upon closer inspection the teen noted that it was actually a snowflake, albeit simple in design. The blade itself was curved, more akin to a scimitar, while the gloss gave the impression of being silver rather than steel.

"So this is that Dammond fellow?" Kylie questioned, looking the figure up an down.

"In a flesh... so to speak" the blue-haired boy replied, eying the armor. "Most likely there's little more than ash and bone underneath that black metal. Still, nothing one shouldn't expect, given the history of this place. I suppose resting on his throne is his final insult for the region. Still it doesn't help my quest since I see no sort of magical artifact on his person..."

"Well, this is where I come in" the girl announced with pride, smiling, as she pointed at her sizable chest. "Just give me a second to search those withered bones and I'll see if this is really a dud or not" she proclaimed, moving closer to the armor, yet after just a couple of steps she was stopped by Cobalt who placed his hand on her shoulder, a stern gaze on his face:

"Hang on; something is a miss here" he stated, visibly suspicious. "I mean no-one who came to this place has – supposedly – came back. Rumor has it golems roam this castle, yet we haven't encountered them nor anything that would warrant this place being dangerous..."

"Your point being?" the brown-haired teen asked, shrugging in the process. "Maybe we're just lucky?"

"I don't believe in luck" the boy responded, glancing around the room. "And I most certainly don't expect it. We're already deep into the castle. We should've run into... something; traps... bandits... golems" and, as on cue, the ceiling crumbled and broke, making debris fall on both sides of the throne as large, humanoid figured dropped from above with a metallic clamor.

"There you go" Cobalt commented, sweat dropping as the two figures rose to a standing position, easily measuring four times human size. Identical in look, the new arrivals gave an impression of large, armored individuals with their metallic bodies reflecting the light. Thick, steel layer covered virtually every inch of their bodies, while the head furthered the illusion of them being knights with a singular, horizontal chink that served as a visor, a pair of bull-like horns growing at the sides and a small, glittering sapphire as ornament on the forehead.

"Intruders must be eliminated" the constructs said in unison as the right one lifted its limb up, only to bring it down a moment later, aiming its giant-sized claymore at the two teens, forcing them to jump back in order to avoid getting cut in half. As the large blade struck the floor the duo stood a moment earlier, it made the stone crack, yet the golem made nothing of it, its attention concentrated fully on his targets.

Without wasting a second the blue-haired teen reached for his own sword and ducked under a horizontal swing of the other golem which – by now - appeared before him. The youth dashed forward with a roar, slashing at the construct's leg, but to his surprise, other than releasing an empty 'cling', his attack had no effect on the animated armor.

"Uh oh" was the only comment he could muster as the guard didn't even slow down from the blow and cut downwards at his head, forcing the young adventure hunter to side-step the assault and cut parallel to the floor, receiving similar effect to his previous attack. The golem slowly straightened up, preparing itself to slash again, but Cobalt was not yet done and jumping high into the air, he went for the construct's head, a hollow 'clank' following the hit to the armored giant's cheek.

"Oh come on!" the blue-haired warrior whined as he landed on the ground and flipped back, out of the guard's range as the latter swung at him again: At least they're not particularly good at swordsmanship, so avoiding their attacks isn't that difficult. Still, if my own attacks can't do as much as dent these things, how are we supposed to beat them? he wondered, rolling to the right as the second golem attacked him from behind.

Turning to face the other construct, his eyes narrowed as he saw the light reflect from the armored giant, realization dawning on him in a flash. With new-found vigor, Cobalt side-stepped a downward slash and charged at the assailant, dropping to his knees as the blade he just dodged swung at him horizontally. The momentum and ice on the floor allowed the teen to slide while he bended back, making the massive sword swoosh just above him. The golem didn't give up and retreated its arm, ready for another attack.

With a quick thrust, the construct aimed at the blue-haired boy, yet the latter merely jumped over the assault and landing on the flat side of the claymore, he run up the sword's blade and than the golem's arm. Reaching the giant's shoulder, he leaped to the right, soaring straight at the armored titan's head. Coming in front of the helmet, the young adventure hunter slashed at his adversary's forehead, cutting the sapphire situated in the middle, instantly breaking the gem like it was made of glass.

The shards sprayed the air while a weird, buzzing sound came from within the thick armor of the golem, the construct gagging backwards just before it began to fall apart, its inside hollow. The cacophony of metal slamming against the stone floor echoed through the room, bombarding the boy's ears as he landed safely on his feet, relieved by the revelation: "Go for the gem!" he called out to Kylie, only now having the opportunity to actually assess the situation.

And the situation was not pretty as the female rogue ran around the other golem, managing to dodge its slashes, yet incapable of fighting back against the massive armor. Bending forward under a horizontal swing that came from the back, the girl saw her enemy rising the claymore to bring it down on her. Her speed already at its peak, she quickly came to a halt, avoiding the blade that cut the floor only inches before her. Sadly, the sudden stop made her foot slip on the ice covering the ground, pushing the young thief to her butt.

As her bottom hit the icy surface hard, the momentum made her slide forward, the youth's body going into a spin as she did. Her back hit the flat side of the claymore hard just before the construct began rising the weapon, attempting another attack. Kylie tried to get back up, yet the slippery floor swept her hand the second she used it to pull herself up. With horror in her eyes, she watched as the sword came down straight at her, the image burned into her brain.

And than, she felt someone grabbing her as they dashed straight, outrunning the assault by a fraction of a second. Their velocity didn't help staying firmly on the floor as her rescuer's foot slipped – much like hers did earlier – making both fall to the ground and crash against the nearby column and the snow layer surrounding its base. The impact blasted the white powder to the sides.

Coming to, Kylie noted she was currently laying face first on Cobalt, whose lower body was bolted up, his his butt against the column. A bit more disturbing was the fact the girl's generous bust was currently smothering the blue-haired teen's own face.

"Sorry!" she apologized, immediately pulling herself off her savior, face covered by a deep blush. "But why the heck would you do something so reckless?! You could've been skewered as well, idiot!"

"Could've, but I wasn't" the boy replied simply as he too raised back to his feet. His eyes gazing at the girl, he went on, his voice beaming with assurance. "I saw you couldn't get away in time, so I had to take action; I can't just let my partner die! I did promise you that, didn't I?" he asked rhetorically with a friendly smile, making Kylie's heart beat a little faster, while her blush deepened.

Cobalt's face quickly turned serious though as a loud stomp reached their ears, making the young adventure hunter shift his attention to the golem coming their way. His eyes narrowed while he took a deep breath, turning back towards the young rogue: "The gem on its forehead is the weak spot; destroy the sapphire and that things breaks apart..."

"Good to know" his companion responded, a small hint of sarcasm in her voice. "If only the gems itself wasn't, you know, like thirty feet to the sky! How are we even supposed to reach it?!"

"We can climb using the golem's armor" the other youth shrugged at the question. "Or you could trust me..."

"Hm?" the female arched her eyebrow at the statement, slightly confused as Cobalt's arm traveled behind her. In a flash he lifted her up by the shirt and pulling his arm back, he tossed the girl straight at the giant's head with all his might. With her eyes tearing up from the sudden wind that smacked her face, Kylie cried out 'kya!" while she flew through the air at blinding speed.

Taken completely by surprise, she was unable to make a proper landing and in stead her belly smacked against the hard steel of the construct's helmet, knocking the wind out of her. The rogue managed to recollect herself just in time to grab onto the golem's horn, stopping her descent to the floor: "What the hell, you dumbass! Warn me next time you do that!" she snapped, completely forgetting about being saved by the other teen mere moments earlier.

"Yeah, I'd love to discuss your frustration in depth" the boy replied, jumping to the side to avoid the giant's attack. "Right after you break that gem!" he added frantically as he dodged another swing and jumped over the third. Kylie quickly returned to the task at hand and pulling her strange weapon out, she drove it into the sapphire, cracking it just before it shattered in a similar fashion to the first.

The result wasn't exactly a happy occurrence for her though; occupied at the time, she did not see what exactly happened to the previous golem and her eyes widen – mouth opening – as the construct followed the gem's example and broke apart, leaving her still high-up in the air. As gravity kicked in, she fell down with another cry, only this time there was no pain as she landed softly.

Confused, she glanced at the blue-haired teen that caught her in his arms, putting her gently on the floor: "See?" he asked, smiling warmly while he winked towards the young thief. "We won."

"Yeah" she nodded with a weak smile... just before punching him in the face: "Throw me one more time and I will kill you!" she immediately yelled, her teeth turning to fangs while eyes became pupiless from anger.

"Nicely done" they both heard a voice and as their heads shifted in the direction it came from, they noticed three men walking towards them, the one speaking being a massive, blond man who carried a double-headed ax blade on the back. "Those golems were quite troublesome, so you really did help us out by getting rid of them. Who would have thought those gems were they weak spot... I'm actually quite impressed with your skills..."

"Damn, I was so caught up in battling those things, I didn't even sense you guys there" Cobalt admitted, eying the trio suspiciously. Particularly the brunette with a claymore seemed unsettling. "And, seriously? From what I gather, you've been trying to defeat them for a while now; are you really telling me none of you figured out to shatter the sapphires?! Anyone with half a brain should be able to come up with that idea eventually!"

"No need to throw insults around" the large man announced, cracking his neck.

"How bout a question than: you're here for a friendly chat, are ya?" the young adventure hunter asked with a sigh, already knowing the answer as he recognized one of the new arrivals.

"Of course not!" the hooded figure stated, its voice gradually rising. "We watched you fight those golems specifically to learn more of your technique!" at those words, Kylie flinched, a guilty expression crossing her face as the man continued: "All to be better equipped to kill you! I don't care about the others, but for the humiliation from earlier today, I'm gonna slit your freakin' throat!"

"Oh don't get excited over nothing, Craven" the young adventure hunter replied dismissively, letting out a sigh. "I would think that ass-whooping from this morning was enough" he added, slightly annoyed, but this quickly turned to bewilderment as the hooded figure glanced over to his companions, the group clearly confused over the statement. It was than that Kylie interjected, a large drop of sweat running down her face:

"But... this isn't Craven" she announced, making the blue-haired teen gaze at her surprised while she pointed at the black-haired swordsman in the group. "He is. The one you're talking to is Karan, one of Craven's lieutenants" she explained, to which Cobalt nodded a few times with understanding.

"Makes sense since he's so freakishly weak" he admitted, making the bandit snap, a vein throbbing on his forehead and steam coming out of his ears.

"What the hell, brat?! You're insulting me further?! Do you have a death wish?!"

"Ever since we first met you've been constantly threatening my life" the blue-haired boy replied, sweat dropping himself. "I don't exactly see how me saying unflattering things about you can actually make your feelings towards my person any more hostile..."

"Enough of this mockery!" Karan proclaimed, charging forward as he grabbed his daggers. The instant he got close to the teen however, the latter swung his arm sideways, punching the bandit across the face and making him crash against a nearby column, knocked out immediately.

"Well, that was anticlimactic" the large blond stated, sweat dropping from embarrassment at his companion's quick defeat. "That guy really is useless" he added, not particularly impressed with Cobalt's feat. "Master Craven, with your permission, I shall handle that brat personally..."

"Why bother, Parda?" the leader replied, gracing his subordinate with a glance. "It's an unnecessary effort" he announced, shifting his attention towards the two teens: "Kylie, if you'd be so kind..." he said calmly, making the blue-haired boy narrowed his eyes only a moment earlier than he felt metal pressing against his throat. Without any sign of fear or surprise he gazed over his shoulder to see his female companion standing there, her strange blade stopping by his neck as the girl held the ring tightly.

"Don't move" she ordered in a not particularly threatening manner. "We're taking the sword ourselves..."

"Sword?" the young adventure hunter repeated, arching his eyebrow. "I don't care about the sword - though, admittedly, it is pretty cool – I just want to lift the eternal winter curse off this place! You can take that stinkin' blade if you want!"

"So you don't even know?" Craven asked, his eyes widen from surprise for the briefest of moments. Than he started chuckling at the teen's lack of information. "Oh that is good! Hilarious even!" he proclaimed, breaking into laughter. "You came all the way up here, fought those golems and didn't even realize? Dammond's sword is the source of the curse!" he announced, much to the blue-haired boy's shock.

"That sword is infused with rune magic!" the brunette bandit continued, the smile still plastered on his face. "One of the weapons from the Great Forge! It's wielder is granted complete command over ice; he can form it by freezing the moisture in the atmosphere, manipulated it, influence the temperature in his immediate area! That blade is the very reason Dammond was able to gain as much power as he did! And by activating the sword and striking it to the ground, he made its power spread over the land, trapping everything in its radius in this cold reality! That's how powerful that weapon is!"

"Well, didn't saw that coming" Cobalt admitted calmly, though his expression was a dumb-fooled one. "So, what: simply pulling the sword out of the ground... well, floor in this case... will break the curse?"

"Most likely" Craven responded with a shrug. "I don't know and I don't care! I'm just here for the blade!"

"Yeah, about that" the adventure hunter spoke as if he didn't had a blade on his throat. "I can't really let you do that; I mean it's fine to break the curse and all, but I don't think it's a particularly good idea to allow someone like you to wield such a sword, so I'm gonna have to stop you right here..."

"Stop me?" the man laughed again at the teen's bold statement. "Do you not comprehend your own situation, brat?! You'll be dead with the next second! Kylie, kill him" he ordered, turning towards the girl, to which the latter widen her eyes in surprise, mouth opening slightly.

"B-but..." she began, visibly disturbed by the sudden command. "You promised we weren't going to hurt anyone – not the villagers and not him! That is why I agreed to help you; so you can break the curse! That was our deal!"

"The deal has changed" Craven replied simply with no sign of remorse. "Do not forget your own place, brat! I've only agreed to join forces because your skillset has proven helpful in the past, yet in getting the blade you were completely useless! Disobey my command now and you will only share this idiot's fate!" he promised, glancing at the blue-haired warrior. "Now kill him" he repeated more profoundly.

Kylie froze at the order, feeling sweat appearing all over her body; she was no killer, but she did not wish to die either! There was no way she could defend against both Craven and Parda at once. And to risk her life for a total stranger... she gaze at Cobalt's face, which was still indifferent as he merely stared at the girl, awaiting her decision.

And than she has made one...

next: showdown in the snowed castle!-

Yup, this chapter ends here and boy was it hard to write; I constantly struggled to make the fight with the golems challenging, but also didn't want to drag the story and have that part wrapped up in this entry. I hope I've managed to balance the two decently enough for it to be both believable and entertaining. Let me know what you thought of it.

Since this is gonna be the last chapter of "Tombs and Titans" this year, I would like to wish you all MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR! Don't forget to drop by here in 2019 for more adventures of Cobalt and his crew!