Purdeus, a city under attack and ice.
Purdeus, the city below, was ablaze with fire. Many of the humans searched for shelter, but the Grotes were having none of it. The pleasure of complete and utter destruction was immense. The more destruction – the more pleasure.
Thousands of people gathered in a cathedral and prayed for help. Unfortunately, the Chimera had given specific orders to destroy religious places because that was where the Gargoyles had first been enslaved. There was no remorse amongst the Grotes either – if a place was not on fire it soon would be – especially if it carried the withered remains of Gargoyles. That cathedral was no different. Simultaneously ten Grotes dropped lava bombs on their target. Fire rained through the roof onto the congregation who ran for cover. The Grotesques, who were amused by their destruction, admired their handy work and peered through the flaming roof. The humans screamed at the top of their lungs when they saw the hideous faces of the enemy. Not only was it repulsive, not only was it cruel, but it was worse than anything they could ever have imagined. What they saw made them understand that the world didn’t stand a chance. No one was going to be saved: not the good, the bad… only the really ugly.
In a state of panic Ghost glanced at Davina; she was out for the count. No one knew how to use the staff and he couldn’t trust Johnny and Susie. Ghost took in the situation with his many eyes: thousands of Grotes streamed across the sky. How was he supposed to deal with them all? Ghost could feel a knot jerking his intestines. He had to do something and he had to do that something now. Ghost carefully secured Davina to Wanda using a long piece of web from Davina’s bag. He then whispered to Wanda to take shelter and advised the other Goyles to stay back. When Davina was secure, Ghost leapt back onto Solomon and guided him away.
‘You can talk their language, I thought you could before but I guessed you were just pretending,’ said Johnny staring at Ghost in disbelief.
‘I can talk their language. So how come you understand….’ he asked.
Ghost turned his attention away from Johnny and advised the Goyles of his intentions. The Goyles were reluctant, but Ghost had a plan: he was going to use himself as a decoy. Ghost whispered the plan to Solomon, who was concerned by his line of attack. Although he accepted Ghost kind of knew what he was doing – he was using the same tactics he had used at the Nadim school.
‘Can you make a lap of the city,’ asked Ghost, so he could see what was what and had time to prepare mentally.
As they flew, Ghost tapped the staff, ‘We will resemble the Grotesques as an illusion.’ The illusion worked, the pair resembled Grotesques from the outside. As soon as he muttered those words, a shield of imagery covered the pair of them. Not a single Grote would notice any difference other than the fact they were not carrying lava. Ghost now fully comprehended the power of the Shamaventus; it was as if by having it in his hand it was guiding him. Ghost had an idea; he tapped the staff again and directed its power back towards the Goyles, ‘We will make you invisible to anything other than our group. A few seconds later, a dark shield surrounded the Gorgeous of Goyles. Once he was convinced the Goyles were safe, he was ready.
‘Solomon please land on that tall platform over there,’ he said pointing to the tallest building. Solomon noticed a platform on the edge of a high tower and set down. There, Ghost used all his eyes to study what was going on. He followed the Grote’s system of attack and deciphered a pattern. When he was ready, he tapped the Shamaventus and created a vision for Solomon to view. ‘If we are in the centre we will be able to see from which directions these creatures are travelling from.’
‘I was just wondering… Solomon, weren’t you and the Grotes simply two species living harmoniously with each other at one time?’ said Ghost thoughtfully.
Solomon sighed, ‘The Grotesques have always been the cruel version of us. It is a terrible thing when ugliness becomes the creature.’
‘So were they ever good?’
Solomon tried to avoid the question.
‘Tell me, were they ever good?’
‘Their ancestors were good when they were in Gargantuan. It was only once they entered the human world they changed; the humans purposely evolved the Grotesques and used them to scare away bad spirits. Unfortunately, their ruler is a dark-hearted Chimera. She wants to be all powerful and destroy the humans with their pathetic systematised, meaningless ways.’
‘Is that what she really thinks of us?’
Solomon didn’t want to give too much away, but he knew why the Chimera was so twisted.
Ghost tapped Solomon, ‘I don’t understand why you view humanity like that?’
‘We are not part of your system, effectively we are observers. The Goyles and the Grotesques were captured from Gargantuan. They were then brought out into this world and made into slaves to protect your people against evil. At that time nothing was evil; it was just the way the human’s had divided things into good and bad. As soon as people started to believe there was good and bad that was when evil began to exist. People who believed in bad began seeing it everywhere and that belief was validated when they searched for the evidence. That is why we, as Goyles, are considered good and the Grotes bad.
‘Why are they bad?’
‘Bad, according to humanity, is associated with ugliness. If you start to label a group as bad, they behave that way. That is when conflict arises.’
‘So you are saying the Grotes are not bad?’
‘They are being lead. They are simply following orders and are only bad because we are on the opposing side.’
Ghost wanted to grab his head, but he would probably poke himself in one of his multiple eyes. He thought he was on the good side, but what if he was bad? Ghost didn’t want to think about it. Ugly creatures were hurling lava at cities; in his mind they were bad and they needed to be dealt with. The destruction had to be stopped! Ghost wondered what would happen if he wiped out all the Grotes? What if he annihilated them? Where did that leave him? Was he a baddy?’
‘It’s amazing what humans have built in the name of progress,’ said Solomon gazing out of over the city.
‘We like to build things, lots of things,’ said Ghost climbing off Solomon.
‘I don’t want you falling from this height,’ said Solomon producing a strong web from his mouth, which he attached to Ghost’s waist.
Ghost smirked, only the previous day he had hung precariously from a Goyle’s mouth and now he was trotting about at such a height. ‘I am beginning to notice my fear of heights seems to be calming down.’
Solomon nodded; he was warming to the strange, young boy.
Ghost found his position at the base of the spire. He used all his eyes to size up the situation. From what he could tell, he was at the centre of all the lines of Grotes who were attacking from different directions. Ghost turned to Solomon. ‘What do I do?’
‘Ghost this is your world and your decisions. If you feel the need to save the city, I say save the city,’ he replied
Ghost climbed to the tip of the spire and stared down below. Silence.
Below him was complete and utter mayhem. Lava burned through rooves and on the streets. At the same time, he wanted to find out more about the Grotes. What if they were just misguided? Maybe they could be persuaded to join the Goyles.
Scratching his face, Ghost accepted he had some difficult decisions to make. Where was Davina when he needed her? Ghost sighed, closed all his eyes and thought about what he needed to do. He carefully tapped the Shamaventus and began a high-pitched out of tune song. Solomon glanced at Ghost; it was the worst singing he had ever heard. It was like a retching cat competing in an out of tune Karaoke competition.
Ghost called with all his heart something that was in charge of ice. Was there such a thing as an Ice Maiden? Could he create one using the Shamaventus? After a few moments of screeching, Ghost felt cold air swirl about him. He kept singing, ‘Ice Maiden are you there? I need you… pleasey da-ling. Ring-a-ding! With a little ping – I hope you like it when I sing… It’s not spring. I am looking for king. Some ice can you bring…’
He couldn’t help what he was saying – it seemed logical because it was exactly what had flashed up in his mind.
On top of the spire shards of ice rained down. Ghost glanced up at the spire and then back to where Solomon was resting. He sheltered under Solomon’s chin and looked out into the darkness. Silently a beautiful, lucid figure arrived. She carefully slid down the tower and changed any available water to ice. Ghost stared at the Ice Maiden, ‘You are real!’ he muttered. She was transparent like an ice sculpture. ‘Are you… erm an Ice Maiden?’ he said snagging his words.
‘I am… You should know that… You called and created me,’ she said. The way she talked was sharp like ice. ‘Now why do you summon me here at such a time?’
Ghost felt embarrassed, ‘Well… I called you because I need your help.’
‘And pray tell what do you wish me to do here when everything is so hot? Are you trying to destroy me?’
‘No… I would…’
‘Of course you wouldn’t. So what do you wish for me to do?’ asked the maiden.
‘Is there any way you could create an ice storm and freeze the entire city so that nothing burns anymore?’
‘I can do that but before I do. I wish to know whether you are completely sure that is exactly what you want?’
Ghost nodded, ‘I want the whole city turned to ice and everything except my group to be affected. I want that ice to be a massive sheet, kind of like an ice-age and that sheet to go just a bit further than those volcanoes. I want them covered too. Yep… all like an ice age that just came from nowhere. Like really big, cold glaciers. I want the Grotesques frozen too, so I want it really, really high. Oh I will just say again that my friends are over there so please could you avoid going anywhere near them or near any Goyles at all for that matter… or anywhere near me or Solomon here.’
The Ice Maiden laughed, ‘I will say this again! Are you sure that is ‘precisely’ what you want?’
Ghost wondered whether it was a trick question, but wasn’t ice just really cold water? If he froze everything all the people would be able to escape? ‘Yes, that is exactly what I want.’
‘When do you want it?’
‘Now in this time… Erm… please.’
The Ice Maiden nodded and giggled. She lifted her arms in the air, did a little dance and then blew her hardest. At first, as far as Ghost could see, glaciers formed and ice streams rushed from all directions at the speed of light. In a matter of seconds, the whole landscape was transformed into ice. There you go…. As you asked,’ said the Ice Maiden.
Ghost stood on the platform; from where he was standing, the ice was so high he could have stepped off the tower and ice-skated about. Ghost chewed his lip as he looked; the moon lit the massive sheet of ice making it look spectacular. Ghost remained silent; in fact everything he could see had become ice. Even the Grotes were trapped in ice. Below him the remains of the city was completely covered in ice. All the people had been frozen inside, they all just looked like tiny frozen insects. Each was suspended mid-motion. Ghost gulped; maybe what he asked for hadn’t been exactly right. Maybe he wanted a coating of ice, or a peppering of ice, not the whole of Antarctica.
The expanse of ice contained everything. He searched for a bright side, but there was none. He had his ice age and he had probably killed everyone in the process. Ghost sighed, ‘Bum!’ At least there were a few steaming portholes where the lava had burned through.
‘Everything really is ice Solomon,’ said Ghost in a stunned tone.
‘That is exactly what you asked for,’ he replied.
‘I know erm… Thank you for doing such a good job Miss Ice Maiden.’
‘I will go now,’ said the Ice Maiden sharply.
‘How long will it last for?’
‘For as long as you wish. Of course the ice on the volcanoes will melt naturally.’
Ghost scratched his face and shuffled, ‘So when I’m ready… I just have to ask for it not to be there anymore?’
‘Yep you created it – you get to undo it,’ she replied.
Ghost nodded staring down at all the people frozen mid-motion. ‘Are they all dead?’
‘It all depends on what you want them to be,’ said the Ice Maiden making a twirl.
‘Oh,’ said Ghost. ‘I see… Well you have a nice rest. We have to work on our strategies. Thank you very much for your time. I’ll see you soon… hopefully.’
Ghost was rigid; he watched the Ice Maiden skim away. What had he done?’
‘Is that really what you wanted Ghost?’ Solomon’s expression revealed a concerned from.
‘Erm, do you want the honest answer?’Ghost fidgeted and then folded his arms.
‘Yes.’ Solomon sensed Ghost’s discomfort.
‘I didn’t expect it to turn out quite like that. I was thinking a small layer of ice not the biggest iceberg in the whole world.’
Solomon contained his amusement and shook his head, below innocent people were frozen. ‘Ghost it works as a temporary solution. Although the people inside will have to be thawed at the same rate as they froze to stand a chance of living. Other than that, it buys us a window of time. The problems haven’t gone away they are just being held back – frozen if you like. We will still have to face them… and as we speak thousands, maybe millions more Grotes are being born.’
Ghost’s lip quivered, ‘Honestly Solomon, how do we even stand a chance?’ he sighed.
‘I’m not going to say… If you believe we have a chance then we have a chance!’