The first thing Frost de Winter did when he returned to the mansion was shower several times. He then sprayed himself with cologne to mask any hint of the smell he’d recently escaped. However, the discomfort in his heart couldn’t be washed away.
How was a wasteland rat like Cloudhawk able to repeatedly show him up? Even that crazy woman Dawn Polaris was on his side, now. What was her grandfather thinking! However when Frost thought about it he was heartened that Cloudhawk would only be in the city for another few days. Soon the training at Hell’s Valley would begin and he would be sent away. It gave him some solace.
Two hours later, in a local pub.
Frost de Winter had exchanged his armor for the typical wide-sleeved robes worn by nobility in Skycloud city. The snow-white cloth was almost magic, turning from a dashing young military genius into an erudite scholar. However, the shrewdness in his eyes could not be concealed.
None of the food or drink on his table was touched. As always Frost’s self-restraint was of the highest caliber. He never drank, never smoked, never enjoyed a woman’s touch, did not covet money, and had never been seen enjoying himself. Frost de Winter was always the picture of high-born discipline, driven by the desire to be the best. To achieve that he made sure to make the most out of every second to become win strength, title and influence.
All this was due to his excellent teacher.
Frost’s highest aspirations were to be like him. The only way to do that was to put in much more effort than the common man. He was talented, but he wasn’t even among the top ten in the city when it came to natural ability. However he was in the top three for skill, and he firmly believed he was the best all-around warrior of the youngest generation.
Selene? Zephyr? One was an insurmountable talent who was dumb as rocks, and the other had disappeared into seclusion with their father years ago. Frost considered neither his equal.
Blaze? Atlas? One was slick with no ambition, and the other was too narrow-minded to make anything of himself!
That left Dawn Polaris. She merely relied on her family and talents to push people around. Her precious family would collapse around her sooner or later, and her talents will dry up. When she joins the ranks of the base common folk what right would she have to even challenge him?
Frost de Winter sat there, cold and aloof. He did not come from a mighty family, nor was he of exceptional talent. However, he did have the benefit of a peerless teacher and unyielding drive. Everything in his life was aimed at a single purpose, so he was convinced no one would be able to stand in his way. He was fated to become the greatest man of his generation.
“Why is he taking so long?”
Frost’s eyebrows furrowed, he hated wasting time. It was like throwing away a precious resource. The tardiness of his companion was beginning to irritate him.
Besides, this place was full of degenerates. The stench of corruption and decadence clung to him.
This table, this chair, this carpet… who knew how many filthy plebians had touched them? It didn’t matter how often you washed them the stench remained. Surrounded by drunken revelers and flirtatious harlots, Frost’s skin began to crawl.
How was the world filled with such short-sighted ignorance? There was so much to do, yet these fools wiled away their days in pursuit of transient pleasures.
If Frost had a torch he would hesitate to burn this whole place down. But he didn’t. He was forced to wait and suffer.
“Apologies, nephew. You’ve been waiting.”
At last a mustached man bathed in a lordly presence pushed open the door to the private room. He was none other than the governor’s assistant, Augustus Cloude.
“No need to stand on ceremony, uncle.” Frost de Winter rose and pressed his hands together in greeting. He quickly pushed the conversation along. “How are things going? Well, I suspect?”
Augusts’ expression stated otherwise. “It’s proving difficult. The place they’re sending Cloudhawk is unique. Any assassins you send won’t be able to sneak in.”
A stern displeasure crossed Frost’s face. “Then we deal with him on the road. We do it ourselves!”
Augustus shook his head, rejecting his nephew’s plan. “Too impulsive. Skye Polaris will certainly be sending a retinue with Cloudhawk, meaning we’ll have to kill the commander’s men to achieve our goal. You can imagine, I’m sure, how the old man would react to such news. The wastelander’s life isn’t worth pitting two of Skycloud’s strongest families against one another. I cannot assent to this plan – much less the governor.”
Frost de Winter frowned. “What sort of place is Hell Valley?”
“I don’t know much about it myself. The various families send representatives every year to participate in training. Its high mortality rate is well known, but not their methods.” Augustus fiddled with his mustache as he spoke. “Unerringly, those that emerge are the elite. Best of the best. They don’t bother joining the army or any demonhunter group. They are recruited into special units, or secret family organizations like the Court of Shadows. Elusive, mysterious, and beyond my jurisdiction to pry into. “
Frost de Winter’s scowl carved lines in his handsome face. “Is there nothing we can do?”
“The families don’t just send anyone, only their most talented take the risk. There is no guarantee Cloudhawk survives.” Augustus tried to persuade his hot-blooded counterpart. “This is a sensitive time. There are always methods, but if something should happen to the wastelander Skye will surely blame you. This is why Lord Arcturus has ordered that you keep your distance. The commander is not a man you wish to provoke, our Lord is working in your best interest.”
Frost de Winter had already dismissed his uncle’s warnings. So long as Cloudhawk lived he was a problem. He shut his eyes and thought for a time, then spoke. “You say Hell Valley boasts a high death toll. Cloudhawk might not live through the training.”
“If he dies during the process then no one can say I had a hand in it, yes?”
“Then we have our opportunity. We cannot dispatch men to the camp but we can send trainees. We have them enroll and they deal with Cloudhawk from the inside. Nothing can be traced back to us, and Skye will have no reason to suspect our involvement.”
Augustus couldn’t hide his wry grin. “My good nephew, you are not one to be ignorant of the situation. Why do you want to kill this man so badly?”
“The wastelander scoundrel has insulted me, defiled our city, and tarnished our lord’s reputation. This I can stomach. But something tells me if he is allowed to live Cloudhawk will become a serious threat to the master. I’m not prepared to ignore my premonition.” Frost de Winter fixed his uncle with an unflinching stare. “Are you willing to help me, uncle?”
“Alright. This once.”
Augustus Cloude was Lord Arcturus’ man, executing whatever the master demanded. For many years he’d lurked in the background, manipulating things to make sure the governor’s bidding was done. Never once had he violated Arcuturus’ orders. This time, however, he worried that the governor’s methods were too lax.
Killing Cloudhawk was not going too far. Not in order to protect the family’s reputation or his lord’s dignity.
Augustus Cloude brought Frost to a special prison beneath the sanctuary. It was only a tenth the size of a typical prison, and only housed a dozen or so inmates. However, these criminals were not your run-of-the-mill convicts. Each of them were demonhunters who had committed atrocities and the dungeons they occupied was built specifically to house them.
Augustus opened up one of the cages, and inside was a large man dripping with chains. A sick air hung over the thirty-something year old man and he was covered in scars from head to feet. Even just the look of his was rabid.
Frost cast a glance toward his uncle. “This is the man you recommend? He doesn’t look like much.”
“This is the one they call the Butcher.” Augustus smirked. “Don’t underestimate him, his bloodlust is well known. He was once sent out to find a blasphemer hiding in a village. When he couldn’t discover who it was he slaughtered every man, woman and child. It was so bad that they locked him up down here to make sure word never got out.”
Frost still wasn’t convinced. “IS he strong?”
“More than sufficient to deal with Cloudhawk,” he answered.
The governor’s disciple frowned in thought. “Be that as it may, we should have a contingency in place.”
Augustus blinked in surprise. His nephew definitely wasn’t sparing any effort this time. He reminded him of Lord Arcturus when he was young. If Frost de Winter could learn to control his moods he would grow to become quite a man.
After a moment’s hesitation, Augustus led him to the deepest cage. “This one is truly insane. He once hid by the sanctuary until an oracle passed by and kill them. He’s slated for execution, but if you think he’s useful I can levy the family’s influence.”
Frost nodded and called out. “Lift your head, let’s take a look at you.”
The killer slowly raised his head, revealing the face of a man that did not look at all like the monster Augustus claimed him to be. His skin was fair and his features noble. Blonde haired, blue eyed, his had an impressive build. Far from frightful, he seemed almost as bashful as a young boy.
“Interesting.” Frost de Winter looked him over, then approached and unlocked his shackles. The blond haired youth fell to the ground, rubbing his raw wrists and ankles appreciatively. Frost looked down his nose at him. “You should die a hundred times for what you did.”
The man hung his head and a raspy chuckle followed.
Frost frowned. “What are you laughing about?”
As the last syllable left his throat the blonde man’s head snapped up. That bashful look was gone and in its place was a bestial insanity. In a flash he lunged at Frost with his sharp fingernails.
Frost de Winter used his spear to knock the rush aside, simultaneously filling the cage with a bone-chilling cold. Right away the blonde man’s body was covered in a layer of frost. With an animal-like scream he skittered backward, but Frost pressed the attack. A dozen strikes followed, one after the other, forcing the man to roll to safety. He cowered in a corner gasping in fear.
“There aren’t many who can avoid my spear. Not bad.” Frost wasn’t angry from the man’s surprise attack. He walked over to where he huddled in the corner. “I’m prepared to give you a chance to live.”
This one was definitely stronger than Cloudhawk. The wastelander hadn’t been able to avoid his strike.
What’s more this madman didn’t even have a relic or weapon. The power he displayed was physical only, but there was clearly more to him than that. Frost’s plan was coming together; use the Cloude family’s influence to enroll these two in the same training program as Cloudhawk.
From there they could get the job done.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Frost going against Arcturus' will? Not necessarily a good idea... and our boy Cloudhawk isn't just going to lie down for him either.