THE QUEST FOR ICEQUAY

The Quest For Ice Quay

By Ragnarok III

A dark foggy night, a castle surrounded on three sides by water, a fleet of silent ships moves across the ocean under the cover of a supernatural mist. With out a sound the besiegers scale the granite walls. The guards, confidant in the fortress's walls, are killed at their posts without a sound. The sleeping inhabitants are put to rest eternal by a gleaming sword, never to glimpse dawn's light again. The king stops in mid-sentence, addressing his council, as an arrow pierces his throat. Before they can react the council as well are shot through the heart.

*****

The next day the castle gate remained closed to the outside town. Well into the day. An angry crowd stood before the portcullis calling to be let in. An old man walked past the crowd and approached the gates.

"It's no use, old man," called one of the townsfolk. "They refuse to open up and let their own people in, let alone a wayfarer."

"If they will not open for you, then it is for another that they wait." The man replied cryptically.

On cue the gate seemingly raised its self and the great wooden doors swung in to reveal an empty courtyard. The crowd pushed roughly past the traveler and poured into the castle muttering about the delay. One turned back to the old man who had not moved from his position in front of the archway.

"Aren't you coming with us?" She asked.

"I hope I never do," he replied "for where you are going no one wishes to follow."

Before his enigmatic reply could be reasoned out the entire courtyard was engulfed in flames. The mage reverted to his ordinary form and turned his head from the stench of burning flesh. Other villagers came running to the screams of their friends and family. It was then that the wizard's second spell was unleashed.

*****

Spar Lightfoot hurried down the corridor that led him to the great hall. The king sat in his throne with a grave look on his face.

"You sent for me sire?" Spar inquired, bowing on one knee.

"Yes, Sir Lightfoot." The king answered. "Something is amiss in the coastal kingdom of Icequay.

"The emperor there and I were discussing trading agreements yet I have not received a reply from him in over two weeks ago.

"As you know, I sent a scout to learn what had happened after the first week had gone by and I have heard nothing."

"Then I will go to find out what has happened." Spar said quickly and turned to leave.

"Stop where you are," he was harshly ordered. "I understand your stake in this mission," the king said more gently. "But one knight has gone and failed." Spar stiffened at this remark, yet he could not deny his leader's reasoning. "We must ensure that this does not happen again. You will lead a war party to Icequay and find out what's going on there."

"As you command, so shall it come to pass." Spar acknowledged through clenched teeth. He had waited impatiently for this assignment and was both angered and insulted that he should waste more time gathering a contingent to complete a simple mission.

*****

Dawn's pale light glinted off the armor plating as four knights rode across the terrain the next morning. Spar had been able to convince only three other knights to ride out with him the previous evening instead of waiting until morning. With him rode his close friends Rellac Conal and Sear Reworth. The forth companion was a recent addition to the castle's garrison known only as "Sky". Spar was surprised Sky had decided to accompany him after the protests that they could at least wait until the morning, however Sir Lightfoot had too many concerns to give a young glory hound much thought.

Of more concern to Spar were the problems he would have convincing the king that four warriors were a war party. He did not think about that much either compared with his determination to arrive at Icequay and dispose of whatever the problem there was.

Half way to their destination the companions encountered their first obstacle, the bridge crossing a treacherous river had been destroyed.

"We'll have to ford it, is all." Spar snapped when Rellac suggested another bridge an hour further down the bank.

"You're going too far," Sear answered sharply. "I understand your hurry, but this is too great a risk to save an hour.

"If you want to go than go," Lightfoot growled. "I'm not going to let a little water stand between me and my mission, perhaps you'll catch up with me own my way home."

"As you wish." Sky answered quickly, turning his mount around.

"Forget it," Rellac said soothingly, trying to dissipate the mounting anger. "If your heart's set on fording here than let's just get on with it."

He had only started to move his steed in the river's direction when a gang of bandits rushed at them from behind a rocky out cropping. Sear was the first to react, taking out to of the raiders with her crossbow, before she was forced into close combat. Rellac had his spear out and was hard pressed against three enemies. Spar, closing in to assist Rellac, was cut off by two more pirates. The first brandished an axe while the other had a sword, which he swung viciously at Sir Lightfoot's head. Spar ducked and used his sword to parry the incoming axe. With his free hand he sent a knife spinning into the axe wielder's throat. The other raider swung again, down low. With no room to dodge and his sword hand on the wrong side Spar was forced to leap from his saddle. The sword nicked Spar's left arm before driving into the neck of the war-horse.

"Another hindrance!" yelled Lightfoot, who remained true to his name by stepping around his attacker's blade, as he thrust his saber into the bandit's heart.

Sky had dealt with two more raiders and was heading for their leader. Meanwhile Rellac was having problems coping with three enemies at once. His spear was just a blur, blocking a sword, club and knife. He hadn't missed a swing, but was unable to counter attack. Sear had finished off the last bandit and was running toward the uneven battle when she saw Sky climbing up the rock bluff after the pirate leader. Sky was near the top when the commander charged at him, pushing them both off the edge. Spar lost sight of the bandit and knight as they fell past the battle, hearing only the splash as they hit the water far below. Enraged, Lightfoot ran towards Rellac and the outlaws. Sear got there first and killed one distracting the other two. That moment of hesitation cost them their lives as Rellac's only attack of the fray slashed open both their throats. With all the raiders disposed of the group rushed to the riverbank in search of Sky. All traces of the knight and his opponent were gone in the current of the stream.

Sear and Rellac, with bowed heads stood before the river in silence. Spar meanwhile had gone to his horse. With no other alternatives he put the dying beast out of its misery and leapt across Sky's former stallion.

"If we mourn now, we'll only lose more friends in the time it takes." He explained to his companions. With that he spurred his new horse towards the river.

*****

The three remaining companions made it the rest of the way to Icequay with out incident. They rode into town only to find it completely deserted. Houses were barren of all life, autumn's multicolored leaves strewn about the yards and in the open doors. Shops proudly displayed their rain soaked garments and wooden carvings to starving livestock.

"What could have happened?" Sear wondered aloud. "No bodies, no sign of a fight, … nothing."

"Magery," Rellac growled. "I've seen enough of it in action to recognize its legacy."

Spar simply stared to the castle dwarfing the village. Slowly he edged his mount towards the fortress. Sear and Rellac moved to do the same, without success. Their horses refused to venture near the gates. In frustration they dismounted and approached on foot. As they neared the great doors opened up before them. Spar paid this supernatural event no heed and strode confidently forward. With more than a few glances of envy at their chargers, Rellac and Sear followed suit.

As with the town, the castle was deserted. After searching a few rooms, Spar led them to the king's great hall. There sitting on the throne was Sky.

"What…?" Was all Spar could manage to blurt out as he stumbled into the chamber. Sear and Rellac drew their weapons prepared for a battle with the undead. Sky gestured and the door behind them slammed shut.

"Did you miss me?" Sky taunted gleefully. "As if a puny mortal runt could have done me in.

"You needn't trouble yourself with clerical magic either," he added to Rellac. "I am very much alive, which is more than you will be able to say."

"Traitor!" Spar rushed towards Sky, his sword leading. Suddenly he realized he wasn't moving at all. Helplessly stuck in a magical paralysis, Spar, could only stare as a host of creatures swarmed into the room to overtake his friends. As tall as a man, these creatures carried weapons and wore armor, yet there the similarities ended. The fiend's eyes were black slits in a reptilian face. They swished their tails as saliva dropped from scaly lips. No match for an ambush that out numbered them forty to two, Rellac and Sear were forced to surrender.

"With my loyal this town's former inhabitants," Sky announced gesturing to the mutated beings around him. "No one can stand in my way. I will take over this land and rule it like a god.

"And before I forget, Spar," he went on cruelly "I realize you must be awfully worried about the fate of the 'messenger' that was sent here a week ago.

"I caught her snooping about and put a stop to your king's prying. Until you came along that is. Though you might think me evil, I would never come between 'true love'."

Sky beckoned and out stepped Aliza Lightfoof, Spar's commander, and wife.

"Take them away." Sky commanded her, as he dispelled the shackled Spar, and she led the companions and a handful of the reptiles out of the room.

"Aliza!" Spar cried out at last as they were led toward the castle dungeons.

Suddenly Aliza struck out sending one of the monsters over the castle walls. Drawing a concealed dagger she faced off against a half dozen more. With blinding speed she deflected two attacks, ducked another and slashed through the heart of a third. Deftly Aliza continued to counter her opponent's attacks and freeing her comrades. When Spar had managed to draw his weapon he found that there was only one creature left to deal with. His over-head chop sent it crashing to the cobblestones.

"Hurry!" Aliza shouted waving them back to the throne room. "I wasn't affected by Sky's mind control, but I had to fake it until some reinforcements arrived." She explained as the cut down the lizard-like guards.

Spar kicked open the door and charged through, intent on finishing Sky himself. Lizard men scrambled to protect their master, and were taken down before they could draw their weapons. More of the creatures rushed into the room as Spar closed in on the man he had once thought of as an 'ambitious rookie'. Again Spar felt a spell take hold of him and he stood helpless before the laughing mage. Aliza led Rellac and Sear in an attack on the beasts that swarmed in, but they would soon be over whelmed. Seeing Spar's imminent fate Aliza drew out the anti-magic pendant which had protected her from Sky's original spell and threw it towards her husband. Her aim was true and the pendant freed Spar from the enchantment's hold. As Sky brought his blade in a deadly arc at Spar's throat, the warrior instinct took over in Sir Lightfoot's body. At the last second Spar parried the attack, though the force threw him back. Grabbing the pendant Spar brought his blade to bear. Through pure instinct he hacked at Sky who, amazed by his magic's ineffectiveness, fell back in a pitiful defense. Unrelenting, Spar drove his sword home, killing Sky with a single blow. As one the lizards screamed and toppled to the ground.

*****

Far away another mage watched the death of his second in command without emotion.

"It seems that my apprentice was not up to the challenge I set before him." He muttered to the disfigured creatures around him.

"He was always too greedy to be content ruling under me anyway." The sorcerer continued. And his method of infiltrating castles was never necessary compared to the power of my armies."

*****

As Spar and his wife rejoice to a battle well won, an army silently approaches the castle gates. Cloaked in a mystical vapor the besiegers scale the walls with out a sound…