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Crimson Tree – Part XXVII
Often, weather changes in a place, never remaining the same for too long. Shifting in some way, even a little so as to change its texture in the air and its feel on your fingertips. At times wafts of blinding heat surge forth from the sun seeping into the pores of your skin and lightly cooking you fine. Most times in the Ice Kingdom, though, snow-capped hills and mountains scattered like the play toys of a giant: usually left its visitors chilled. The cold finds a way to circulate within your bloodstream through each breath you take, claiming dominion over blood temperature and enhancing the irritation a slow trek in snow left one with. As far as ice trolls could see, snow blessed their land north to south. Ice storms and pine trees inhabited their lands from east onwards to the western body of water that edged the kingdom. All in all, visitors weren’t quite always welcome.
The chill did not affect Marceline as much, just leaving slight shivers at her forearms and a few goose bumps on the nape of her neck. Dodging the tops of a taller pine tree of two, she landed lightly on the zenith of a snow-capped hill. Soft mould formed on the snow her boots claimed and swiftly turned into compressed ice, as the queen leaned forward on one knee examining the two black blurs racing across the ground far below. The smaller of the two followed by a yellow streak, as well.
She really hadn’t needed them. But, the princess had insisted.
She watched as her top sentries worked together along with the shaggy dog one of them brought along; as scouts. Careful and able to withstand the freezing temperature – that which would ice out starchy limbs – the two humans crept at a fast pace through various bushes and dull greenery within the refines of the forest, blocking a clear path by foot to the main mountain of Bethany’s castle. Occasionally, the young man of thick blond locks paused as his canine companion, sniffed the earth, letting the pores of his wet nose loiter around the ground – searching, sensing. After a moment of contemplation, it barks and Finn signals up to the queen with a wave of his hand. The other sentry – John, namely – sighs as he continues to run after the leaping young boy. The excitement pumping out of the smaller human, quite evidently surpassing the latter’s.
But the point was out, the path ahead by ground, was, as dictated by a dog’s growl: dangerous. Swooping off the hill into a low floating dive, but centimetres from grazing the ice ridden steep of land, Marceline curved off to the two sentries running up ahead.
“Slow down, Finn,” she hisses, floating fast beside the boy. His run slowly retracts to a jog, as does his dog’s pace as well. “Better?” he asks, offering an open mouthed smile.
Marceline nods, rolling her eyes at the same time. The boy was great at his post, but he was still, a young lad. His armour clunked regularly at his exaggerated jogs forward; pressing his arms to the shoulder plates. Sword clanging at his side equally loudly.
Both sentries freeze in place, hands grasping around hilts and eyes narrowing as they listen carefully. The dog, follows pursuit. Marceline pushes off the sentries to two opposite trees with a wave of her index finger: left, then right. Next, she slices a palm that faced downward through the air at her eyes. Be at the ready.
Unsheathing her own axe, she steps out from the thick cover of forestry and moves into the open space of puffed, white slush. Before her a large road of white opened up, ending at the curving slope of a large mountain. A few dark hollows rested at its top, giving the inanimate mountain a somewhat facial feature of eyes against its pale white skin. Silently, without trudging on the snow, she moves up: scanning the pathway below. No footprints.
Shifting her gaze upwards, Marceline flashes through the air and right into one of the large, open hollows. Despite the Ice Kingdom, being almost what appeared to be a tundra of emptiness – the interior of the ice castle embedded in the mountain, mirrored its surroundings with a somewhat, more hospitable nature. A few lamps – unlit, of course – trailed the walls of the corridor she’d entered. A frame depicting the young Queen Bethany and an older, similar white-haired man glared down at the space beneath the mantle. A red carpet spun its way across the entirety of the area: through pathways, up stairs, down to cellars, even recoiled within lavatories. Familiar with the paths due to the visits she paid once, long ago, to Bethany’s hallways – Marceline makes her way to the throne room. Ice statues of various poses lined the halls, chandeliers of ever-glowing golden lights shimmered onto the sneering faces carved into the statues, basking them in a shining glow. Marceline sniffed the air, once – twice. A strong pungent scent had filled up the air near the throne doorway.
Two huge doors of metal stood in the way, one slightly ajar.
Lifting the axe up in front of her face, the vampire presses its tips into the door, pushing it open with a loud Grech! Stepping into the room with her axe body over her face, her defensive manoeuvre coming into play as she enters the giant throne room. Her eyes slowly tense up over the form of a dark lump in the middle of the room. A generous amount of snow had settled atop the still body of the beaked creature. All at once, the pungent smell revealed itself to be, none other than the dry blood that enveloped parts of the snow at the penguin’s chest. It had trailed its way down to its stubby flipper and dried there too. A fallen parchment lay beside it, as well, and that too was crimsoned with dry, red splodges.
Marceline’s brow rises into arched defeat. Bending down, she brushes aside the piles of snow and places a hand on the head of the dead penguin.
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