33: The City of Ice

Spots of green grass shone through the melting snow. Men walked alongside the massive beasts with hair hanging down to the frozen ground. On top of them were the huts made from skins stretched over bone and ivory, protecting the women and children. Smoke came out holes in their top. Behind the larger animals walked the calves in their parent’s footsteps. It took a while for the entire herd to pass. And when it so did, he made way over their tracks impressed deep into the tundra.

He stopped at a trickling brook and drank from it in deep gulps. Small fish swam past him up against the stream. He rose and looked toward where the herd had gone and saw it disappearing over the horizon. A smaller dot appeared and headed toward him. When it came closer, he saw that it was a young man on a sled dragged by a span of hounds. They were white, as were the clothes of the rider.

Ahoj! The rider said.

Hello, The Devourer greeted him.

You doing here? The rider asked.

Traveling, The Devourer answered.

Travel, The rider repeated. Travel to where?

I don’t know yet.

I understand.

Yes, The Devourer said and looked toward from where the rider had come.

You go to the City of Ice? The rider continued. You want me take you there? Only one gemstone.

A businessman, The Devourer scoffed as he dug out his pouch and handed the rider a gemstone. And here I thought you were some kind of border guard, He continued. Yes, take me to this City of Ice.

He climbed onto the sled that took off over the snow. With great skill, the rider avoided the patches of grass and moss. The dogs huffed and puffed clouds that intermingled with each other before being left behind in their wake. Soon they caught up to the herd and passed them through zigzagging between their giant legs and feet. The long hair brushed over them and the sled. It was soft. Much softer than one would imagine the bristles of some by wind and cold, hardened beast.

They traveled until early evening before they saw it. The first of many towers protruding from the landscape. The summer sun reflected off the ice and glistened in the droplets of water forming on them. More and more towers appeared before he came over the hill and could see the wall. There was a green valley where thousands of hairy beasts grazed on the grass and drank from the many brooks. It all was framed by the white borders of the surrounding mountains. The hounds did not stop where the snow did. In unified effort, they continued dragging the sled over the grass through the great gates of the city.

Beautiful? The rider asked.

Oh, yes. Splendid, The Devourer answered. There’s not anything else like it in the world. Is it?

No.

They went through multiple tunnels of ice lit by lanterns. People came and went through openings in the walls. Some were homes, others boutiques, the rest were shortcuts to other streets. The tunnel went steep down for a while before leveling out again. It opened up into a plaza where many people mingled. It was surrounded by walls of ice hundreds of feet high. The walls leaned outwards and were built as a giant spiral staircase going all the way to the top parapet.

The sled came to a halt in the middle of everything, and he got off. All the Devourer could do was to watch in awe as he twirled around in an attempt to take it all in. The rider waved farewell before urging his hounds on into the same tunnel from where they had emerged. The Devourer stood for a while as the people passed him like water passes a rock in the stream.

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