272 Heart of Winter part three

    Locas glanced at Nix's armor. "I notice you are still wearing your overlay armor.  Is it better than the Nether-Breaker armor?"

    "I haven't really had a chance to look at my Nether-Breaker armor yet." Nix led the procession across the windswept ice fields. The heart of Ice was only a few minutes away, and he could see the thermal signature of an Ashobel waiting for them.

    "Isn't it just a matter of putting it on?" Locas glanced down at his own Nether-Breaker armor. It was the best armor set he'd ever heard of.

    "Mine is a token." Nix linked it to him in group chat.

    Nether-Breaker Armor Token: King's Set

    Description: The armor worn by the

    Nether King.

    "Hmm." The Ain'Dhassi ranger was nearly trampled by Chiba when he slowed to examine the token; Chiba took advantage of the misstep to move ahead of him.

    Chiba's old face creased into a delighted smile. "You have a King's Set?  What's that even mean?"

    "Not really sure, I guess. As I said, I haven't had the chance yet."

    /Gemini: Nix: Tharaka is straight ahead and stealthed.

    /Gemini: Floyd: Yep, I see him.

    Nix slowed down and let everyone catch up. He waved to Raka to join them.

    Tharaka has joined your group.

    Tharaka has joined the Gemini channel.

    Nix snuck a peek at Floyd; his verticle irises were the same as Fajiis. "You can see through stealth?"

    The dark-haired teen nodded. "I can't see through yours though, no one can."

    /Gemini: Nix: This is Tharaka everyone, he's an ally and can be trusted.

    /Gemini: Tharaka: Raka is fine, thanks, Nix.

    Nix noticed that Raka was carrying a deadly looking Ice Halberd and had picked up some Ashobel armor from somewhere. Because of their natural toughness, the Ashobel fought while wearing a battle harness, heavy boots, and lots of jewelry type trinkets that Nix assumed were enchanted for fighting.

    /Gemini: Nix: We have a quest for our mission.

    Nix brought up his hud.  He was going to ask Raka where he picked up the Ashobel fighting gear, but then he remembered the Ashobel warrior they had examined the day before. It was evident that he had scavenged it.

    [Breach Commander: Map Interface]

    The Breach Commander map and communication capabilities were far better than normal huds. He highlighted the point on the map labeled 'Icewind Wall.'

    /Gemini: Nix: I"ll summon our healer and then we'll head out.

    /Gemini: Locas: I'll keep track up, so we don't run into any surprises.

    /Gemini: Floyd: Does 'Track' pick up stealthed enemies?

    /Gemini: Locas: Yes, but it doesn't give a direction or distance for them.

    /Geminin: Better than nothing, at least you know you are being hunted.

    /Gemini: Locas: It doesn't pick up your Camo at all.

    /Gemini: Nix: I'll treat everyone's Nether armor with it when we stop for the night.

    [Create Breach: Everspire: Colonial IceCap]

    A breach formed, and a moment later, their healer stepped through.

    Zinu has joined your group.

    Zinu has joined the Gemini channel.

    /Gemini: Nix: This is Zinu, she'll be on heals today.

    /Gemini: Floyd: Welcome.

    [Whisper Raka to Nix] She's a Krayven? Did you bring her here from Everspire?

    [Whisper Nix to Raka] Yes, initially, we had some conflict, but we are working toward resolving that.

    Nix heard a sound that was similar to a rockslide and realized it was Raka laughing.  The Ashobel stealthed and ran off in the direction they were already heading.

    Zinu was dressed in furs, only her face was visible, and it was smeared liberally with clay. She bowed politely but didn't say anything.

    /Gemini: Nix: Let's pick it up a bit. Lead the way Locas, I want to meet this Ice Mage.

    An hour later, the group approached a sheer wall of glazed Ice that seemed to rise up out of the ice field.  It reflected everything that approached it.

    /Gemini: Locas: There's no one on track, Nix.

    They were only there for a  moment before the Ice shimmered slightly, and a half dozen armed figured exited, they were all Ashobel. The one in front held up a hand to stop the others from attacking.  "Hold!"

    /Gemini: Nix: Don't attack unless they do so first.

    They smaller Ashobel in the front stepped forward, its white fur seemed much shorter than the others, and the size difference was visible.  "I'm Fabri, an Ice Mage of the Ashobel."

    "I'm Nix, the Fire & Air Palace Champion."  Nix used the title that the Ashobel would know since he had defeated their Chieftain Glacio at the Faction event.

    "Champion Nix?  Well met, Chieftain Glacio has often sung of your strength." Once she spoke, it was apparent that Fabri was female.

    Nix couldn't imagine that the Ashobel were very good singers, but he nodded anyway.  "Who is hunting the Ashobel?  What can you tell me about Gearpin and Tipha?"

    Fabri furred face hid any surprize she may have felt. "Those names are already known to you?"

    "Yes, I'm here to stop it if I can.  Although I have fought with the Ashobel in the past, I have no desire to see you erased from Colonial."

    "I will answer your questions, but first, we are in the process of burying our Chieftain."  Her eyes fell on Raka; she stared at him for a long minute.  "Now that Glacio is dead, all the nomads have returned to challenge."

    "Glacio is dead?"  Nix stole a quick glance at Raka; there was no discernible difference between him and the others.

    Fabri nodded slightly.  "He was killed a few days ago, our rites are nearing their completion, and then the nomads will fight the chosen for leadership."

    "What nomads?  And who is the chosen?" Nix was getting frustrated with answers that created more questions.

    "Follow, and I will explain."  She approached him and held out her hand.  "I offer you the peace of the Ashobel while you are here."

    Nix nodded slightly.  "I accept, thank you.  We will honor the peace you have offered."

    /Gemini: Chiba: Oh... that sounded very slick Apprentice.

    /Gemini: Nix: I am a noted diplomat.

    Floyd and Locas both started coughing as if they drank something too fast, but neither offered an explanation.

    Nix watched as Fabri stroked the flat surface of the Ice with her furred hand; a moment later, it opened up to reveal a passageway.  She gestured for the Gemini group to enter, and they followed her through.

    "The nomads is the term for the Ashobel who didn't want to live under the rules of the old Chieftain.  Glacio ruled by spear and fang; many nomads left the 12 tribes during his reign."

    Nix looked back at Raka, who was nodding in agreement.  "And the chosen?"

    "The Chosen refers to the nearest blood-relative of the old King.  In this case, that would be his son Gaeda." Fabri snorted in contempt, "he will not be King, there is a weakness in him."

    "I am here to fight, too long have I been alone,"  Raka spoke from behind them, his deep gravely voice surprising Nix.

    /Gemini: Nix: What are you doing?

    /Gemini: Raka: Starting over, if someone is to rule over me, then naturally, they must prove their qualification to do so.

    The passage led directly to a large central chamber that had dozens of exits leading to smaller chambers.  There were cookfires set up in the middle where quite a few Ashobel were clustered.  Old and young sat together quietly, the mood in the small settlement seemed touched by despair.

    Nix had been to the funeral of his own loved ones; this didn't feel like that. "Does everyone grieve the old chieftain?"

    "That bastard?  Not even his mother cries for him." Fabri pointed to a spot next to a large fire.  "Please sit."

    Nix and his group sat on fur mats that had been placed close to the fire, plates of cooked meat were presented to them along with a sour-tasting beverage that reminded Nix of buttermilk.

    After they'd eaten, Fabri started to speak. "A few months ago, there was a sudden unexplained increase in the disappearance of Ashobel among the 12 tribes. After first, the numbers were small, but within a few weeks, it became obvious that we were being hunted."

    "By whom?" Nix was waiting for a reply when a loud howl echoed through the chamber.

    A yellowish colored Ashobel charged in, his big feet making nearly no noise as he ran toward them. "Fabri!  Nuenthi is being attacked!"

    When Fabri only nodded, the Ashobel bowed once and quickly retreated.  "Neunthi has already been hit twice, half of their population is gone."

    A quick glance around the camp told Nix that no one seemed to be getting ready to fight. "How far is it?  Too far to travel?"

    "I can bring one team there, but it would just end in our death."  Fabri shook her head slightly. "We've already lost two of our mages."

    Nix nodded to his team and stood up. "Send us in."
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