Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Lodriland - Blood on the IceThe lurid red light from the lava lamps lent the walls of the ice tunnel the appearance of being stained with fresh blood. Legend said that the light Yelm Himself had shed from his vacant throne had been yellow. Hard to imagine such a thing though. All the light the patrol had in the tunnel were the standard equipment magical lanterns that had been enchanted to hold molten blobs of lava without burning the lantern’s bearer. The light they gave off was red as was the light cast by the New Sun. The oil made from reindeer or puffin fat that was burned in the lamps everyone used indoors was bluish. Certainly not yellow. The priests were good for making these lamps if little else. Using the lanterns made the sergeant uneasy because they were so dangerous. Proper lantern use was drilled into the tunnel scouts from day one and the priest trainers emphasized over and over again how important it was to open the lantern on a regular cycle to release the heat trapped inside. He remembered all too vividly the graphic example they’d use to reinforce the importance of NOT pointing the lantern at anything living, nothing friendly anyway. The tethered reindeer had been 20 meters away from the lantern when it was opened and it had been fried where it stood. He suspected that it hadn’t even had time to feel anything. Every patrolman’s dream was to unleash the lantern on a troll or ice demon war party but it was pretty rare that they were so obliging to be available when a lantern needed to be discharged. The sergeant suspected that the odd missing patrol was due to their neglecting the maintenance schedule for their lanterns in the hope that they’d meet some enemies. He remembered the crater the purposively neglected lantern had made for that warning. First the boredom of standing around watching the lantern and then suddenly and violently it was gone in a huge blast of heat.
If anyone doubted after those examples that the blobs contained in the magical granite and mica lanterns weren’t real chunks of lava, it certainly wasn’t the sergeant. No, he had seen what had happened when one of the lanterns had been crushed by a troll’s maul. (Fortunately right after a discharge or he wouldn’t have any memories to linger on). The glob of molten rock that was released had badly burned the trooper who had been carrying it. Knowing himself dead, being so far away from base and with their healer already in Lodril and Oria’s embrace, the crazy bastard had actually picked up a glob of the molten rock and thrown it in the troll’s face. He had just managed to grab some before it had slowly melted its way down through the glacier seeking to return to Lodril’s realm. Sometimes the glacier’s hatred of and resistance to fire was an advantage. The sergeant smiled at the memory. No matter what people said about trolls being able to eat anything it was pretty obvious that molten rock wasn’t on the list of things they could eat. The sergeant shook his head at the memory seared into his mind, of the trooper, hideous burns running all down his right side, bending over and dipping his hitherto uninjured left hand into the blob of molten rock, screaming in pain and hatred the whole while. He had then straightened up, still screaming, molten rock dribbling from between his charred fingers and hurled the glob of lava straight into the troll’s face. Lodril had surely guided his aim that day. The sergeant could still remember the beatific smile on his face as he saw that the mighty troll had crashed to the tunnel’s floor and thrashed away his life. He managed to live just long enough to see the troll die.
A commotion behind him brought the sergeant out of his reverie. He cursed himself for not paying attention to the here and now. Maybe it was time to retire to training new troopers full time. The ice tunnels were no place to daydream. He shook himself back to paying attention and turned to learn that a green recruit had been struck by a falling icicle. Idiot, he thought, how many times did he have to tell them to always keep their reindeer bone and hide shield over their heads. Could they possibly forget that the ice hated them? He whispered back a stern reminder to the trooper immediately behind him and finished off with a terse pass it on. Wouldn’t do to raise his voice in here, the ice tunnels carried sound all too well and he didn’t want to risk the chance that some ice demons or trolls were up ahead of the patrol somewhere. He’d save the verbal reaming out for later once they back in the relative safety of Lodriland. Now there was some real blood on the ice. The sergeant shook his head. Just how much blood were they to leave on the ice? Would they ever be able to leave this ice dome they had lived in for centuries? Would Yelm ever return? He glared back at the timid recruits behind him. He was definitely too old to be leading patrols like this. Even the greenest recruit was brave enough out on the Ice Canal skating around with their hookey sticks, the long shafts of reindeer bone with the curved bone and obsidian blade on the end. The blade was equally good for slashing foes or whacking the obsidian discs they used as ranged weapons. But take away their skates and hookey sticks, put them into a pair of ice crampons and give them an obsidian hammer for the ice demons and a obsidian tipped spear for the trolls and send them into the tunnels and they all became timid. The ice was enemy territory and despite the confidence and bravery the scouts felt when on the Ice Canal and surrounded by the relative safety of Lodriland everyone was unhappy when completely surrounded by ice.
The sergeant shook his head. Who could blame them though? Only an idiot would willingly go into the ice tunnels that periodically opened up in the ice dome that surrounded Lodriland. And what were the tunnel scouts if not idiots? Someone had to inspect the tunnels for possible dangers from ice demons or trolls. If Valind’s forces were massing for a major assault it would take time to position the Priest-King’s guard and the special lava engineer forces. Someone had to investigate. Fortunately the ice tunnels were opening and closing all the time and most were nothing but ice tunnels. Three times during the sergeant’s life though major incursions had been thwarted by tunnel scout patrols. The assaults had been thrown back with horrific casualties but thrown back they had been. If the tunnel scout patrols hadn’t warned them things would have been much worse. So everyone valued the tunnel scout patrols, even if those bastards in the Priest-King’s guard didn’t act like they did.
No, as awful as the patrols were they were necessary. Taking green recruits into a tunnel though! The sergeant had argued long and loud about the wisdom of sending an entire green patrol in but losses among the tunnel scouts had been heavy lately and there weren’t enough veterans to go around. So here he was with a patrol that to his weary old eyes looked like they had just let go of their mother’s tit. The fates and tunnel scout command were not kind. And that’s when the walls erupted ice demons…
This page last modified December 02, 2003
Last updated January 24, 2017
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