An indecently cold day
Temari sighed. Her warm breath became visible in the cold air as soon
as she exhaled. In the desert she had wished for some relief from the
oppressive heat, but this sudden change to the other extreme was
completely uncalled for. She had woken this morning to find her horse
gone. Her best guess was, that the poor thing had gone off in search of
heat, when the fire died down. There was little hope for him.
She would have to be more conscious about which ancient riddles she
would be following up in the future. "Center of frost" did not sound
particularly inviting to her as it was. Then again, if Temari was honest
with herself, she did recognise that there was no point in turning back.
And, truth be told, she had this vague feeling that on some level, the
riddle was connected with the Ritual she had undergone. Curiosity and a
sense of duty propelled her, but neither did much to brighten her mood.
Some ways up ahead she could make out a small figure, standing besides
a white bear. On his shoulder perched a bird. Tasurn let out a hungry
growl, but Temari told him to curb that particular intention.
Perhaps this was a friendly being. At any rate he did not look
"Halt!", piped the figure angrily, and he trained an arrow upon her.
Silently, Temari berated herself. What had seemed to become a chance
meeting with a friendly stranger, had turned out to be nothing more but
yet another assailant. Courageous little fellow, travelling all the way
out here into this incessant cold. Nevertheless, Temari had encountered
his type before. She was rather angry that she had allowed this twerp to
get the upper hand.
She cast an enlargement upon her and Tasurn, who had by this time
flattened his ears and had dropped into a crouch. Events had been
frustratingly enough of late! She stroked absent-mindedly through
Tasurn's beautiful, black fur and infused the panther with electricity.
Tiny arcs of blue lightning crossed over the black fur, and Tasurn let
out a low growl. Now she felt like the anonymous archer and herself were
on more equal footing once more.
Temari started to walk towards the annoyance. He still was aiming his
arrow at her. She wondered why he hadn't yet loosed his first shot. Then
she understood: she must be out of the range of his arrows. She stopped,
and stood for a moment considering her options. Tasurn looked
inquiringly at her, and she remembered she had not travelled to this
infuriatingly cold abandoned city to walk straight into an arrow.
The creature, which by now she believed to be a male of one of the
smaller Lesser Races, seemed quite angry and very serious about shooting
her. Well, as Sarutobi had taught her, she need not look for conflict,
it would find her. Still, it was easy enough to turn into a side street
here and leave the rugrat to his own devices.
After a moment's consideration, prudence prevailed and Temari decided
to avoid a confrontation. After all, it was obvious that this little,
little man had few good intentions. Temari turned into an alley to the
left. From behind her, she could hear him pipe in anger, followed by the
heavy footsteps of his bear. A smile played upon her lips, as she went
through one of the abandoned buildings.
Tasurn and Temari made their way to the center of the city, and after
a short while they saw a plaza which could, perhaps, have functioned as
the heart of the city. Just as Temari was about to set foot on the
plaza, a voice piped from a nearby street: "There they are! Halt!".
Temari sighed. She had dispelled the enlargement in order to traverse
the various abandoned buildings more easily, and had let the electric
charge on Tasurn fizzle out a good while ago. But, first and foremost,
she had forgotten about this offensive little fellow. She turned around,
and found her hand being enthusiastically shaken by a very cute
"Nice to meet you, Caitlin," said Temari (deliberately at a slow pace),
and she couldn't help but smile. "My name is Temari, and this is my friend,
By this time, a figure upon a horse had ridden closer and extended his
hand. "Yriryn, Ma'am." His tone was quite formal, and his armor (adorned
with gruesome spikes and sharp ridges) also bespoke of a more serious
outlook on life than Caitlin's. This was one serious gnome. One look on
his face convinced Temari that Yriryn could be as kind-hearted a fellow
and as trustworthy a companion as he (by the looks of him) could be a stout
And then there was the little man with his bow. Trained once again
upon her heart. Yriryn told Urdos (apparently the little, little dwarf's
name) that his behaviour seemed somewhat aggressive, and the little
fellow lowered his aim.
Just when tensions seemed to relax, a cry for help came from across
the square. In his wake, several arrows thudded into the snow. Yriryn
dismounted and moved to intercept the pursuers. The dwarf with the
high-strung nerves wheeled about, ready to lose an arrow. Of course, the
only ones he could've hit had been standing there for some time, except
for the Elf.
The battle was swift. The Elf who had come running for help displayed
an amazing prowess, single-handedly (and once even in one stroke)
finishing a lion's share of the enemies. These turned out to be some
strange blue-eyed folk and a blue-eyed wolf. Both of these could puff out
a blast of intense cold. After the battle, the Elf introduced himself as
Conlae Donn. When asked what his purpose was in thise abandoned city, he
"I'm looking for a temple. Does any of you know what 'a temple' looks
The distrustful dwarf replied he had, and waved in a certain
direction. Apparently his nerves had not died down when the skirmish
did, because he insisted on bringing up the rear. His behaviour left not
enough room to interpret this as anything but wanting to keep an eye and
possibly an arrow on these people.
On the way to the temple, the temperature dropped even lower.
Although Temari had to wrap herself in her winter blanket to withstand
these frightningly cold temperatures, she was glad. The ancient paper
she had found with her quarterstaff had clearly stated:
...If you have the courage and the faith
Awe awaits you in the center of the frost
With a shock, Temari recalled the ancient meaning of "awe": (the power
to inspire) dread...
Still, there was something to do in the center of the frost and by the
little amount of feeling left in her almost-numb fingertips, Temari knew
that they were getting closer to that center.
The roof of the temple had long since collapsed, which ment of course
that the entire inner area had been oversnowed. Not at all daunted by
this, Conlae went to work clearing the snow. Temari chose not to be in
the way, except for a simple enlargement charm upon Conlae to allow him
to work faster - for a short while.
When the floor was cleared, Yririn started tapping the floor
(presumably to find any hidden openings). When he had found a slab which
returned a hollow sound, Conlae became enthusiastic about the strange
noise it made and started to jump up and down on it. The effects were
predictable, but before anyone could inform Conlae of this, he crashed
through the floor and disappeared from view. A short while later, he
yelled from a lower level that he was alright.
Well, since it seemed like what they had come for, eventually
everyone jumped into the hole and slid down an icy slide. They found
themselves in a small dungeon complex. A short exploration tour and a
trap later, they had found several rooms, which offered no further
direction on the quest. As the party proceeded to the next door, a
lightning bolt shot from the roof and stung several members. Temari was
not hurt much, but this bolt suffered as a decent warning: she should
have been standing further to the back. From now on she would keep some