Cody grunted as he lifted a pile of snow over his shoulder. “This is… supposed… to be… California,” he wheezed through exhausted panting. He was almost ready to collapse by the time he was finished. He looked at the driveway. It seemed clear enough. He went up to its owner’s door and knocked on it. A young woman opened it. “I’m… done…” he said.
The woman peeked outside, holding a cup of hot chocolate. She went back inside. She came back to the door and handed Cody thirty dollars. Cody panted as he accepted the money. “Thank… you…”
“You too,” the woman said. She nodded and went back inside. Cody turned around. He looked down the road. He’d been hired to clear four more of those things.
Cody panted and looked down. He fell forward into the snow. He gritted his teeth. He reached for his phone and called Lester. “Hey, man,” he said.
“Hey,” Lester said. “Something wrong?”
Cody took a deep breath. “No. I’m just lying out here; in the snow; on the path to someone else’s driveway; while you’re inside; with hot chocolate.”
Lester laughed. “I feel ya, man.”
“No. No you don’t.” Cody stood up. “I mean, good gosh, I shouldn’t even feel cold. I should be able to just make this snow melt in a few seconds by touching it. But no, I have to stand out here in the cold with a light jacket on because that’s the closest thing to a winter coat the thrift store wasn’t out of. I mean, so yeah, I can’t actually freeze to death, but these people don’t know that. What kind of sadistic--”
“Cody, did you just call to complain?”
Cody looked down. He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Sorry. I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
Lester sighed. “No, its cool man. You have every right to complain.”
Cody smiled. “Yeah, I do. Well, I should probably get to the next house.”
“Alright, see ya later.”
“See ya.” Cody hung up. He put the phone in his pocket. He walked forward, headed toward the next house. About half a minute later, he felt something on his hand. He looked at his hand then up at the sky. It was snowing again. “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Cody stumbled into Cherie’s house, wet from snow and groaning. His family had been staying there ever since their pipes froze. He heard Violet Fox on the television. “…massive…” she paused, “massive worldwide cold snap still leaving scientists baffled. Early in the morning one week ago today, global temperatures took a sharp dive, and have only decreased since. By now, places from California, to Florida, to Egypt, to South America are reporting up to two feet of snow falling every hour. Wildlife is being devastated. Experts warn that if this trend continues for much longer, permanent damage could be done to the environment, and that could prove disastrous…”
Cody’s mother greeted him at the door. “Cody, you’re back.”
Cody nodded. “Yeah, with all one-hundred-fifty of those dollars you needed.”
Cody’s mother put her hand on his shoulder. “Thank you very much for doing this for us.”
Cody blushed and handed her the money. “You’re welcome.”
“There’s hot chocolate in the kitchen.”
Cody nodded. He went into the kitchen. He saw Cherie’s father getting a cup. The last of the boiling water dripped into his mug. Cody’s eyes widened. Cherie’s father turned to look at him. “Oh, hello. Sorry” he said. “You can boil some more water if you want.”
Cody nodded. “Thanks.” He took the kettle from the stove, filled it, and set back on the stove. He looked at Cherie’s father. “Hey, if it’s alright for me to ask, how is D.I.A.P.P. looking to handle this--”
“You can ask all you want. I’d be executed for treason if I answered, but you may ask all day.”
Cody looked down. “Oh.” He looked up. “Because I was thinking that maybe my friends and I could help you out. I mean, it’s obviously something from the… place, and--”
“Oh.” Cody sighed. “Okay then.”
Cherie’s father looked down. He took a deep breath. He approached Cody. “Look, if it becomes apocalyptic before we can get a handle on it, all bets are off, but until then, we don’t work with your kind.”
Cody put his head down. “I understand.” Cherie’s father walked out of the room.
That night, Cody snuck out of his fold-out bed. He crept up Cherie’s staircase and looked around. He didn’t see anyone. He opened the window, rushed out, and closed it behind him before too much snow could get inside. He ran off but slipped, falling on his face. He stood up, brushing himself off. He walked, at the steadiest pace he could manage, toward a hospital.
On his way, he caught a whiff of fear. He moved from his course to find its source. He found an alley and looked inside. He saw a homeless man sitting in the cold, shivering. Cody’s eyes widened. He rushed over. The homeless man looked up at him as he approached. His eyes widened. Cody knelt down to the man’s level. He saw the body of another homeless man next to him. That man’s skin was blue. “Hey, it’s okay,” Cody said. The living man looked up at him. Cody put his hand on the man’s shoulder. He sensed severe hypothermia. He tagged it. “We need to get you to some place warm,” Cody said. The homeless man looked up.
Cody had learned where the shelters were from previous incidents like this. Cody put his hand out. The man took it. Cody lifted the man and walked off, carrying him. He moved as fast as he could toward the nearest shelter. He felt the man getting colder and colder. Cody ran a little faster. He had to be careful not to slip again. He felt the man cooling. As he sensed the man’s hypothermia worsening, he looked around. He was still pretty far from the shelter. He looked down at the man. He tried to shed a tear. He dashed forward. A few minutes later, he felt the man’s life fade away.
Cody’s eyes widened. He cried for a minute. He took a deep breath and looked ahead. He saw another alley. He walked to it. He set the man’s body down in the alley on a bulge in the snow. He put his hand on the man’s forehead and bowed his head. He looked up. He sniffed for another fear. He sensed one and rushed toward it. He took a deep breath when he reached it. It was another homeless man. Cody sighed. This one was covered in a thin blanket. He looked up at Cody. He put his hand out. “Help,” he said.
Cody nodded. He took the man’s hand and stood him up. Cody sensed that the man’s leg was broken. He tagged the injury. They walked toward the shelter.
“I… I thought I was going to freeze.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t let that happen. Just follow me.” Cody led the man to the shelter. He was able to make it this time. The shelter accepted the man, and Cody dashed off.
Soon after, Cody was able to reach a hospital. He entered through the front door. No one stopped him. He spent about an hour walking through the hospital, tagging countless cases of frostbite and the victims of numerous car crashes. On his way out, Cody also tagged a nurse’s chronic migraines.
It was another hour before Cody found a crime, a home burglary. He rushed inside the house and tackled a man who held a gun pointed at a woman, pinning him to the ground. The woman stepped back. The man looked up, his eyes wide. He squirmed, but Cody kept him pinned. Cody closed his eyes. He moved the chronic illnesses over first; a few cases of cancer, a few of diabetes, and three cases of chronic migraines. Cody tried to shed a tear. He moved the frostbite to the man. The man shouted and whaled, begging for mercy. The woman ran upstairs. Cody fought a smile as he heard the man’s screams. Cody moved each case of frostbite over in increasing order of severity. The man shivered. His lips turned blue. His fingers froze more and more. “Please, stop,” the man shouted. Cody ignored him. He grinned. He clinched his fist and forced his face to stay straight until he was finished. He took a deep breath. The car crashes came next. The man cried out as his legs and arms were broken, then all but one of his ribs. He screamed. “Please, please, just kill me.” Cody tried to shed another tear, despite the grin the man’s screams brought him, as he inflicted the final injury, which entailed Cody’s victim losing both legs and an arm. The victim shouted. Cody stood up and dipped his scythe into the man. He took out the man’s soul and ate it.
Cody turned his head toward the stairs. “I’m leaving now. Come lock your door,” he shouted. He looked up at a clock on the wall. His eyes widened. It was 4:13 AM. He left the house. As he stepped away, he heard the door lock behind him. He rushed back to Cherie’s, scrambled into the window and ran downstairs.
Cody lay under the covers reading for the next few hours. At six, his mother came downstairs to wake him up. Cody closed his book, rested his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. He feigned grogginess as his mother approached and shook him. He opened his eyes. “Wha… hi, mom.”
Cody’s mother put her hand on him. “Good morning, Cody,” she said.
Cody smiled. “Good morning, mom.” He sat up. “Are we going to church today?”
Cody’s mother shook her head. “No. There’s too much snow on the roads to drive anywhere.”
Cody yawned. “Oh well.”
“Can you be upstairs in an hour, though? Cherie’s father is serving breakfast.”
Cody smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it.” Cody’s mother patted him on the head. Cherie wasn’t awake yet, so Cody got up, showered, and brushed his teeth. He went upstairs and got his cell phone. He went back downstairs and dialed Bavandersloth’s number. He waited. Valthakar answered.
“Cody, are you mad? You know that the phone is--”
“Relax. We’ll just not say anything that we don’t want anyone to hear, okay? Besides, this is just to arrange a meeting.”
Valthakar sighed. “Let me guess, the weather?”
Cody nodded. “Something like that.”
“Well, to tell you the truth, I was thinking the same thing. Go ahead and be over here tonight.”
Valthakar hung up.
Valthakar hung up the phone. He stood. He looked at the shelves in the Great Room, scanning for a specific book. He didn’t find it. He sighed and went downstairs to the basement. He opened the door.
He saw a swarm of souls waiting around Bavandersloth’s phylactery. On the ground lay the better part of a lich’s torso. Valthakar smiled at the sight of it. One of the souls approached Valthakar. It squinted. “Hey. What do you want?”
“Relax,” Valthakar said. “I’m not here to harm his phylactery. I just need to know where he kept his copy of On the Underworld.”
The soul flew closer to Valthakar’s face. “Why?”
“Because I need to look something up in it. Look, this could make the difference between success and failure for our master’s plan. I have no Ill-will. I can’t defy him any more than you can.”
The soul sighed. “True. It’s in the attic, in a safe. The combinations are 28, 49, 46 for the leftmost lock, 25, 41, 19 for the center lock, 36, 46, 28, for the rightmost lock, 15, 2, 30, for the top lock, and 28, 35, 5, for the lower one.”
Valthakar raised an eyebrow. “Mind following me up and walking me through that?”
The soul turned around. He looked at Bavandersloth’s phylactery. He sighed. “Fine.”
Valthakar went upstairs and unlocked the safe, one of several. He opened it and took the book out. The outer cover was made of amethyst stones which interlocked in the same manner as the sapphires on On Soulless Ones. There was a golden skull in the cover’s center. Valthakar turned around. “That’s all I needed. Thanks.” he told the soul. It nodded and went downstairs. Valthakar smiled and carried the book to the great room. He lay back on one of its couches, resting his head on a pillow. He opened the book and saw its title page.
“On the Underworld”
Valthakar turned the page. He saw the table of contents.
“I A Description of the Underworld
“II On the History of the Underworld
“III On the Sections of the Underworld
“VI On the Souls of the Underworld
“V On the Creatures of the Underworld
“VI Questions and Answers
Valthakar turned to the questions and answers page. He saw a quill, just as one would in On Soulless Ones. He picked it up and wrote.
“Is a creature of the Underworld causing the lowered temperatures on the planet Earth?”
Valthakar raised an eyebrow.
“What sort of creature?”
“A cold dragon.”
“What can you tell me about cold dragons?”
“Turn the page willing to see the answers you seek.”
Valthakar turned the page.
“Beasts of Small Vibrations. Lethargic Beasts. Servants of the underworld, their magical breath chills anything it touches to absolute zero. Their very presence cools any world they visit.
“Powers: Ambient cooling, freezing breath, the carving of mountain caves.
“They prefer colder homes. They can survive in absolute zero. They can fly. They can speak.
Methods of killing them: Decapitation, atomization, burning, bleeding, suffocation, destruction of brain, destruction of hearts…”
Bavandersloth flipped away. He went back to the Q&A section.
“Where is the dragon?”
“In the alcove, now a cave, you call Green Boots’ Cave on Mt. Everest. He has deepened it to suit his needs.”
Valthakar got up and went to Bavandersloth’s computer. He googled “Green Boots’ Cave.” He noted its location and stepped away from the computer. He opened the book back up and quizzed it for another few hours before putting it back in its safe.
That night, Cody set out again. He performed his usual routine and rushed to Bavandersloth’s mansion. He knocked on the door. He entered and he, Valthakar and Justin sat down in the Great Room. “Alright then,” Valthakar said. “I’ve done some research, and I’ve found out what’s behind this.” Cody raised an eyebrow, and then smiled. “According to On the Underworld,” Valthakar continued, “these recent events are the result of a Cold Dragon settling on this planet.”
Cody’s eyes widened. His jaw dropped. Justin’s eyes also widened. He smiled. “A dragon?” they said in unison.
Valthakar nodded. “I don’t believe you’re aware of this, Justin, but dragons are real creatures; actual servants of the Underworld. I fought them when I was the King of Atlantis.”
Justin beamed. “So you’re telling me I get to fight a dragon?”
“My plan was long those lines. This situation is urgent. I should have looked into it sooner, but a cold snap in December, even in California, odd as it was wasn’t enough by itself to tip me off to the supernatural activity.”
Cody raised an eyebrow. “Where is it?”
“It’s near the top of Mt. Everest.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “What? I won’t be able to come, then. I can’t possibly get away from my parents long enough to climb Everest. It takes six weeks to get to the top of that thing and back.”
“Yes,” Valthakar said, “for a human. We can walk much faster, and won’t have to stop during the night, or take any rests, so long as we keep our true forms, which there’s no reason not to do. The lack of oxygen at high altitudes won’t bother us, and our strength will make it easier to use equipment.” Valthakar smiled. “Also, I have someone in mind that can help us. There’s a lich named Kgobauru, whose unique power, well, one of them, is to grant fantastic speed not only to himself, but to other liches as well.”
“Oh. Alright then. But what about--”
“As for getting you away from your parents, I have an idea that I think might work.”
Cody raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Cody’s what?” Yolanda asked, her eyes wide. Cherie’s mother gasped.
“He’s under arrest. Now that it’s known that more than one of the Angels can heal, his original exoneration is no longer valid.”
“But this is--”
“Relax,” the man at the door said. “If he’s innocent, he’ll be out soon enough.”
“Then can it possibly wait until this weather clears up?”
Cody came upstairs. “What’s going on? I heard my name.”
Yolanda turned around. “Cody, this officer says you’re being arrested again. The police still think you’re the Angel of Death.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “What? But--”
“You’re last exoneration was based on the premise that only one Angel existed. We now know there are many more, and at least two, who live in this town, can heal. Cody Giles, you are under arrest for one-hundred counts of first degree murder. Put your hands behind your back.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He put his hands behind his back. He was cuffed. He looked up at Yolanda. “It’ll be okay, mom. I didn’t do anything.”
Yolanda cried. “Cody…”
“I’m not dying or anything. You’ll be able to come visit me as soon as the weather clears up.”
Yolanda walked over to Cody. She put her hand on his shoulder. She hugged him. “I love you, Cody.”
“I love you too, mom.” Cody shed a tear. He and the police officer walked out. Cherie’s mother ran down to get her daughter out of the shower.
Cody walked out to a police car with Valthakar. His head was down, and a few tears dripped from his face. “How did you get the cop stuff anyway?”
Cody looked up. “With whom?”
“The police, obviously. Bavandersloth always keeps a few of them under his influence, at least to some extent.”
Cody sighed. “Right. So, how are we getting to Mt. Everest?”
“Private jet. I didn’t want to bring too large of a party on this climb, but I was able to get the help I mentioned last night. The lich I mentioned, Kgobauru, owns the jet in question. A friend of his, Rngwelokt, will also be assisting us.”
“You’re sure just five liches can fight a dragon?”
Valthakar smiled. “Well, one of those five liches is me, so yes.”
Cody took a deep breath. “Alright.” Cody clinched his fist. He turned around and looked at the house. “I’m sorry,” he thought.
The two drove the police car as far as they could before leaving it behind. They ran to Bavandersloth’s mansion to get Justin and from there to the airport to get onto Kgobauru’s plane.
The three approached the jet. Valthakar sent a soul inside to alert Kgobauru that they were there. Stairs descended from the jet’s side and the group came aboard. Rngwelokt waited for them at the top of the stairs. “Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” Valthakar said.
“Come on in. Kgobauru is in the cockpit. The plane will take off in about ten minutes, so hurry up and find a seat.”
Cody looked around. The interior of the plane was sickly green, orange and brown. The disgusting colors made Cody smile. All of the seats were large. Cody walked to a nearby one and sat down. He strapped on a seat belt. Justin, Valthakar and Rngwelokt sat nearby. The plane took off.
The plane touched down in Nepal on the airstrip of a closed, empty airport. The five liches left it behind and rushed toward the mountain. When they reached its base, they looked up.
“Woah,” Justin said his mouth wide.
“Does everyone have their equipment?” Valthakar asked. Everyone nodded. “Good. Now, we’re going to ascend as quickly as possible, with a few caveats. First, we mustn’t be separated. Second, we mustn’t do too much damage to the mountain. Understood?”
“I hardly think you’re in any position to demand understanding from me,” Kgobauru said.
“Of course not, I merely did all of the research for this little mission of ours, am the only one who knows the way to the right cave. I am by far the most important part of our combat force, and represent Bavandersloth in his absence.”
“Must I remind you that were it not for my power to enhance our speed, it’d take us a month to get up that mountain? Unless, that is, you have your own way to travel at three-hundred miles per hour with all of the caution it takes to ascend Everest.”
“Guys,” Justin said. The others looked at him. “This isn’t helping anything. The sooner we get up there, the sooner the world gets back to normal, and the less chance that the damage done by the time we finish will mean there’s no chance to save the world.”
Kgobauru took a deep breath. “Fine.” He and Valthakar grumbled and the group began their ascent.
The five liches were a day into their ascension of the mountain.
“Man, I can’t wait to get home,” Justin said. “I’m so hungry.” He closed his eyes. “Oh, I can just picture it now. A nice, warm soul. A mugger. No, a serial killer. That nice, strong taste of murder. I can just picture it: that crunchy, glowing outer shell breaking away, the thick yet runny inside bits splashing all over my tongue--”
“Quiet, boy,” Valthakar said. Justin looked up. He clinched his fist and continued on. They reached an icy ledge. Valthakar put his hand on it and made much of the ice decay away, forming a staircase. They climbed up, mindful of its slipperiness.
The others heard Justin’s voice behind them. He sounded like he was speedtalking. “Oh, man, this sucks. Why did I have to come here? I just had to go and slay the dragon--”
“I said, quiet,” Valthakar said.
“Hey, that wasn’t me.”
“Well then who do you propose it was?”
“I thought it was Rngwelokt. He’s the only one behind me right?” Justin’s voice sped up. “Besides, his entry in the book called him a coward or something.”
Valthakar turned around. “Listen bo…” Valthakar’s eyes widened. The other liches turned around too. They saw a grey, hairy, creature. It looked like a large monkey. “Who’s saying that?” it said, speed-talking in Justin’s voice. “Crap, I hope Rngwelokt isn’t mad. Why’s everyone turning around? Holy crap, what the heck is that thing? Why’s it talking like that? Is it reading my thoughts?”
Cody’s eyes widened. He ran up to it, standing closer to it than Justin. “I’m sure I know what that is,” it said, now in Cody’s voice. “I’ve seen it somewhere, in some class? It’s from Chinese, no, Japanese mythology? Maybe?” Cody’s eyes widened. He backed away. “Huh? What was Cody so afraid of just now? Does he have some kind of secret?” Cody backed up further.
Rngwelokt turned to Valthakar. “Do you have your copy of On the Underworld with you?”
“No. I left it at the mansion?”
“Because there are only three known copies of it on Earth. I wasn’t going to bring it up here and risk losing it.” Valthakar looked forward. “I didn’t expect us to encounter anything from the underworld up here besides the dragon. Apparently I was wrong.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He turned around to the others. “Holy, crap guys, I just realized what that thing is. It--”
The creature pounced on Justin. Justin’s eyes widened. He fell to the ground. Justin kicked at the creature, but its grip on him was too strong. It shredded at him with its claws. “Holy crap!” it said. “What is this thing? Get it off of me.” Cody rushed over to it. The creature turned toward him. Cody ducked out of the way of a swipe of the creature’s claws. He grabbed the creature’s arm. It squirmed. Cody yanked the creature off of Justin’s body and wrapped his arms around it, placing his forearm under the creature’s chin. “Gah, this thing is squirmy. It’s almost over my arms already. Crap, it’s getting away,” the creature said as it leapt away. It ran off.
Justin stood up. “What was that thing?”
“A satori,” Cody said. “It’s a creature from Japanese mythology. They’re supposed to run up behind travelers, read their thoughts aloud to confuse them, and then try to eat them.” Cody took a deep breath. “Fortunately, they’re also really frightened by a counter-attack. That thing shouldn’t be back any time soon.”
Justin took a deep breath. “That’s good, at least.” He brushed himself off and stood up. “Hey, Cody?”
“When it started reading your mind, you backed away. Why was that?”
Cody’s eyes widened. He smirked. “Oh, just keeping those secrets grown-ups have to keep from kids.”
Justin raised an eyebrow as the group started walking again. “Huh?”
“You’ll find out when you’re older.”
Cody clinched his fist. He moved forward. He looked down. That was close. Cody clinched his fist again. Had he thought for just one second about what really happened to Justin’s parents, it would have been a disaster.
The five continued until they were about two thirds of the way up the mountain. They were walking along a plateau. Valthakar stopped. Cody looked up at him. “What is it?” Kgobauru asked. Cody looked at the path ahead. His eyes widened. He saw a pale woman in white walking toward them.
Valthakar took a deep breath. “It’s obviously a creature from the underworld. Rngwelokt, can you make a shield big enough for all of us?”
“Alright then. Everyone get close to him.” They all did. Rngwelokt cast his shield, and they all got inside. The woman walked forward.
Cody’s eyes widened. “Holy crap, I think she’s got a little kid with her.”
“It’s a trick. Think. How’d a little kid survive up here?”
Cody took a deep breath. He nodded.
Eventually, she reached them. She stopped in front of them. Her lips were blue, and her skin pale. She held the hand of a small girl, who looked similar to herself. Cody looked down. There was no trail of footprints behind the woman. Cody took a deep breath. The child cried. The liches moved forward. The woman followed them. They kept going for another several miles, and the woman stayed right behind them. Kgobauru turned to Valthakar. “We’re going to need her off of our trail before we can fight the dragon,” he said.
Valthakar nodded. “True. Does anyone have any idea what that thing might be?”
“No,” Justin said.
“What about you, Cody? You identified the last creature.”
Cody thought for a minute. His eyes widened. “Actually, yeah. I do think I know what that is.”
“What?” Kgobauru asked.
“It might be a Yuki-onna. They’re these ghosts, also from Japanese folklore. There’s a bunch of different versions of their legend, but in every case, they have some way of making you freeze to death, and the way to kill them is to expose them to heat.”
Rngwelokt turned to Valthakar. “Valthakar,” he asked, “if I made a hole in my shield, could you launch a fireball at it?”
“In theory. Cody, will it attack us?”
“It’ll probably take its first opportunity to attack. They’re supposed to be aggressive. In some legends, they have a cooling breath.”
Valthakar sighed. “Alright, Rngwelokt, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll keep walking normally. When I say to, you need to create a hole in the shield behind us. I’ll shoot a fireball out as fast as I can. Hopefully, it won’t have the reflexes to harm us first.”
“That might work,” Cody said.
Valthakar nodded. “Alright.” They kept walking for a few minutes. The woman followed them. “Now,” Valthakar said. He shot a fireball at the back of the shield. Rngwelokt opened a hole. It hit the woman. She evaporated with a scream. The shield closed.
“Nice shot,” Rngwelokt said.
Valthakar smiled. “Thanks.”
Many hours later, Valthakar stopped the five liches. He pointed upwards. “You see that?” he asked
The others looked up. Justin squinted. “No,” he said.
“Look closer,” Valthakar said. “That is Green boots. He’s the corpse of a man who died trying to climb this mountain. The cave he’s in front of, that’s where the dragon is.”
Justin’s eyes widened. He salivated. “You mean we’re almost done?”
“Sort of. We’ll also have to climb down, but that might not take quite as long as getting up here did. Either way, we’re about to fight the dragon.”
Justin smiled. “Awesome. So what’s our plan?”
Valthakar huddled in closer to the others.
Rngwelokt walked into the dragon’s den, invisible. He felt his stomach grumble. He looked down. He clinched his fist and looked back up. He walked toward the back of the cave, looking around, seeing ice covering every surface. After a few minutes, he heard a rumbling noise that wasn’t his stomach. He looked ahead. He saw the tip of the dragon’s tail sticking out of a chamber. He stepped over the tail and went inside. The dragon was lying down, but it wasn’t asleep. Rngwelokt moved forward. He took a deep breath as he walked. He tripped on the dragon’s back leg. He fell down, and his eyes widened. He put his shield up. He looked at the dragon. He saw it stir. It stood up, shaking, and stretched its wings. It looked down at Rngwelokt. Rngwelokt looked up. The creature looked only vaguely reptilian. Its scales looked more like stone than flesh. Its claws and teeth were grey. It inhaled. Rngwelokt flinched. The creature let out a blast of frigid air, breaking Rngwelokt’s shield.
Rngwelokt scrambled up and ran toward the chamber’s exit. The dragon rushed to it and blocked it. “Who are you?” it asked.
Rngwelokt clinched his fist. He stood, turning visible. “I am Rngwelokt.”
The dragon arched its head downward. “What are you doing in my cave, soulless one?”
Rngwelokt stepped back. He took a deep breath. He thought. He looked up. “Sir, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but your being here is destroyin--”
“Of course I’m aware of it. Do you take me for an idiot? That’s why I’m here.”
Rngwelokt’s eyes widened. “What? Why?”
“I’m under orders. Kandrinarkora told me to come here and wreck the place.”
Rngwelokt raised an eyebrow. “Wait, Kandrinarkora? He was supposed to be sealed away. Things like you aren’t supposed to--” a magical blast hit the dragon from behind. The dragon turned around. Rngwelokt put his shield up.
Valthakar looked up at the dragon. It looked around. “Where are you?” the dragon asked. Valthakar fired another shot at its neck. The dragon dodged. He scoffed. He fired a blast of freezing breath down on Valthakar. Valthakar put his shield up, turned and ran toward the cave’s entrance. The dragon’s eyes followed him. The creature walked outside with him as he went, smiling. “You do realize that it’s advantageous for me to battle outside, right? I’m the one who can fly.” Rngwelokt came up behind the dragon and fired on him. The dragon ignored him. Valthakar ran out.
The dragon’s eyes widened. “You’re quite the fast soulless one, aren’t you?” He smiled. He ran outside. Rngwelokt followed him. When he reached the end of the cave, he spread his wings and jumped out.
Cody looked up at the Dragon. He put out his hand and fired. He missed. The dragon turned around. Cody and Justin raised their shields. The dragon let out a burst of breath.
Cody flinched as the breath impacted his shield. He closed his eyes and fought to keep it up. After a few seconds, Kgobauru ran out. Cody felt a surge of magical energy flow through him as Kgobauru neared. He focused, and dashed to the side. It seemed to take the dragon ages to move its head. When the dragon’s breath finally came back into contact with Cody’s shield, he dashed to the side and out of the way.
Rngwelokt ran out, his shield up. The five liches were in a line, each moving back and forth, keeping out of the way of the dragon’s breath. The dragon took a deep breath and flew up. As soon as the dragon turned away, Valthakar lowered his shield and tossed a fireball at the dragon. The dragon felt the heat behind him. He smiled. He dove down, under the ball. Valthakar raised his shield back up. The dragon flew around the mountain, out of sight.
A few minutes later, Cody felt a powerful burst of air hit his shield. He turned around and saw the dragon. His eyes widened. The wind blew him off of the ledge of the mountain. He tumbled downward. Cody looked around and saw Kgobauru and Justin tumbling away. Rngwelokt tumbled toward him. Valthakar was still on the ledge. Cody tried to steer his shield like a hamster ball. He and Rngwelokt managed to stay relatively close together.
Cody turned around and looked up. The dragon was following him, and gaining on him. Cody’s breathing was heavy. He steered his shield closer to Rngwelokt. He looked at the other lich, who looked back and nodded. Cody steered until his shield was but inches away from Rngwelokt’s and Rngwelokt expanded his own shield around Cody’s. Cody lowered his shield.
“That was clever,” Rngwelokt said.
“Thanks,” Cody said. The two used their combined weight to roll down the mountain more quickly. Cody looked over his shoulder. The dragon faded into the distance.
Justin rocketed down the mountain with the help of Kgobauru’s speed-enhancing aura. He ignored his grumbling stomach as he moved downward.
Valthakar cloaked himself. He waited for the dragon to come back. After a while, it did, flying back up toward its cave from below. Valthakar held his hand out and struck the dragon with a bolt of lightning as it approached. It fell. Valthakar looked down and tossed a fireball at the creature. He hit its wing. It yelped. It showed its teeth and ran up the mountain. Valthakar activated his shield as the dragon rose up and covered the plateau with his breath. Valthakar stood in place. The dragon crawled up to Valthakar. It leaned down in front of his shield. Valthakar lowered his shield. The dragon growled and seethed. “Puny one. It is not wise to make a dragon angry. Now, prepare to--” Valthakar nailed the dragon in the head with a fireball. The dragon reeled back. Valthakar hit the dragon in the neck, melting its head off.
The sun came and went twice before Justin reached the mountain’s bottom. He slowed his shield down, then stopped it. He let it down and took deep breaths. Kgobauru did the same. Justin looked around and turned to him. “Hey, did you figure out what happened to the others?” he asked.
“I saw Odelarch and Rngwelokt get blown to the South of us. Valthakar was still on the ledge.”
“Oh,” Justin said. He looked up. “One of them has probably won the fight by now, him or the dragon I mean.”
“Yes.” Kgobauru turned to Justin. “Come with me. I have a plan to get them down.”
“I’ll use my power to slow down time around my jet. It’ll be pretty easy for me to fly by them and let them jump into it.”
Justin’s eyes widened. “Wait, you could have just flown us up?”
“There’d have been nowhere to land, and Valthakar wanted me to be able to fight with you. Let’s just hope he managed it by himself.”
The two ran to Kgobauru’s jet.
Cody arrived at Cherie’s house. He knocked on the door. His mother opened it. She gasped. Her eyes widened and she smiled. “Cody,” she said.
“Mom,” Cody said, hugging her. She cried. “Everything’s okay now,” Cody said. “They cleared it up.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Cody’s mother said. After they hugged for a few more minutes, Cody’s mother went around the house and informed the others.
Violet Fox sat across from Valthakar in the interview room. “Good evening everyone. Welcome to Channel 4 News at 6. We’re here once again with Orichalcum, who wished to comment on the recent changes to the Earth’s environment.” Violet turned to Valthakar. “You have the floor sir.”
Valthakar smiled. “Well, ma’am, you may recall that just over a month ago, my colleague, Light-rook, announced that he had defeated the Blue Butterfly killer. Well, I have a similar announcement to make now. My friends and I tracked the source of the planet’s cooling and stopped it.”
Violet gasped. Her eyes widened. She didn’t speak for a while. “What was it?” she finally asked.
Valthakar took a deep breath. “It was a creature from the realm from which we hail. It was hiding on this earth, and its magic allowed it to cool it, which it did. We tracked it down and slew it.” Valthakar chuckled. “I myself fired the killing shot.”
The ground in the underworld shook. Kandrinarkora’s growl reached its every corner. Souls from throughout its span gazed upward. Kandrinarkora ceased his growl. The inhabitants of earth were more persistent than he thought. He smiled. Very well, then. He’d just have to try harder next time.
Valthakar sat in the great room with his copy of On the Underworld open to the Q&A section. He took a deep breath as he lifted the quill and pressed it to the page.