As Kindra was forced further into the flames, the Naga showed himself to be as relentless as he was swift. Yet despite such desperate pursuit, the Ice Woman remained wary of her surroundings—dodging a protruding root here and a sunken gully there—as she utilised her higher knowledge of the forest to keep from fumbling on its rugged terrain. Nevertheless, the heat was oppressive, leaving Kendra unable to decipher what was more torturous: the inhalation of poisonous hot air, or the intense thirst that now violently scratched at her throat.
Whatever the case, she could not go on like this perpetually, she knew. Her longing for water was on the cusp of becoming urgent; but still, Kindra adamantly refused to risk slowing her pace so that she could untie the flask that tossed furiously at her hip. If she sacrificed her footing, even for a moment, she would sacrifice her bearing and place herself within comfortable range of the serpent. For this beast was unlike any other foe she had ever encountered; not only were his kind every bit as merciless as the oral legends told, but the Icelander was astonished by how he seemed renewed by the energy of the inferno.
Hvaša fķfl erum viš, Kindra could not help but grieve as the harrowing knowledge of how ill-prepared her people had been in defending themselves began to truly sink in. Her people had long known about the scourge of the fire serpents, but never truly feared their kind. Unlike the soft-natured sunfolk, they relied on rugged lands to be their shield, comforted by the knowledge that the cold-blooded race favoured more pleasant landscapes. Undesirability was the security of the hardy icefolk, who considered themselves as deeply rooted in this ancient land as the trees themselves.
Hvaš er žaš sem žś vilt hafa af okkur?
Her people held little wealth in gold as well, so what was there to conquer? Kindra scoured her mind for the answer even as her bootied feet landed amongst a pile of dried twigs in the underbrush, cracking the sprigs as easily as brittle bone, they too destined to become little more than fuel for the deluge. Something deep in the pit of her stomach—an almost guttural instinct—caused her to glance back over her shoulder as she still pondered… Hvaš viltu af mér?
In a prompt response to this silent plea, the Naga thrust his foreign-looking halberd with a powerful throw, the blade’s metal sheen reflecting the lustre of the fire as it narrowed in. It was that gleam that warned Kindra of the attack in the knick of time, causing her to veer slightly to the left—a move that saved her life—and that caused the halberd blade to instead strike the the trunk of one particularly young spruce, that miraculously had not yet been licked up by the flames.
Fear gave way to fury as Kindra’s eyes burned with contempt for the snake that hoped to snuff out her life’s breath. Using that same spruce as a rear shield, Kindra scanned the surrounding shadows with an icy blue gaze, while slowly raising her scythe above her fair head… waiting. What she waited for, she did not know; but the Inquisitor waited nonetheless, hoping that the Conqueror would quickly betray his location.
As fate would have it, however, it was a very different creature that had revealed itself first. A great she-bear charged into a small clearing, putting on full display a disturbing patchwork of first, second, and third degree burns that covered its poor hide. A single agonised roar told Kindra that when it came to an angry bear, the best mode of survival was not to fight or flight…
So she froze.
Scythe still held in the air, Kindra remained completely motionless, hoping to deflect its attention from her by appearing non-threatening. For the injured animal was as angry as it was terrified, she could see, and perhaps it would pass her by… to release the brunt of its aggression onto the Naga.
Lķta til bjarnarins, the Inquisitor drew from the memories of childhood, remembering the words that were ingrained into her psyche long ago. Polaris mun leiša žig noršur, Litla Snjókorn, alltaf noršur... žaš er tįkn verndar.
haša fķfl erum viš
we are fools
hvaš er žaš sem žś vilt hafa af okkur?
what is it they want of us?
hvaš viltu af mér?
what does he want of me?
lķta til bjarnarins...
look to the bear...
polaris mun leiša žig noršur, litla snjókorn, alltaf noršur
polaris will lead you north, little snowflake, always north
...žaš er tįkn verndar.
...the bear is your protection.