Robert, Carolyn, Ney’varíth and Chiel are the first ones coming out from the ice labyrinth. With torn clothes and wounds all over their bodies, one can say that they’re among the lucky ones who can escape the deceitful and deadly illusions – what lies behind lies – that lured them into fighting with each other, and triumphed against the Ice Elemental Generator.
So far their venture has caused many casualties, and halved the number of people in Robert’s, Kyflynn’s, Hernan’s, Adler’s and Paliades’ contingents. But the mission also produced some heroes as well. Genilda helped the hunters with the accurate route through the wind tunnels. Akh’mal the minotaur shaman also contributed lots of support. Kyflynn has defeated the giant wind elemental. With Hernan’s coordination, the hunters deactivated the gigantic rock golem. Then Chiel and Robert freed the hunters from the Strife Charm, Ney’varíth showed the way out from the ice chambers, and Carolyn delivered the finishing blow to the ice elemental generator. So, Rob, Carol, Ney and Chiel have the honor of being the first ones to enter into safety in this rune room.
This time the room is surrounded with unpainted anti-rust iron walls, just like in a modern factory.
‘Paliades is right! This structure so advanced is definitely Parthenians’ work. The elves only believe in natural and supernatural things, not technology,’ says Carolyn.
‘Indeed, you’re right, miss. Now I hope you’re convinced that my directions are as accurate as they are reliable.’ The voice comes from Paliades, who comes from behind Carolyn at the doorway, followed by the others.
‘Quite so indeed,’ Adler comments with a sinister tone. ‘But I didn’t see you did much action back there to save the day, did I? Maybe it’s better if…’
‘And you didn’t do much either! You place yourself too high, my friend,’ Paliades retorts with irritation. ‘I DO have the clues, I DO have the solutions, but I can’t do it alone, although I made a few hits too. It was so happened that this pinkhead girl was in the right place, right timing, and has the right means to overcome ice. If you can’t learn to set aside for a greater cause since we fought each other in there, you’re free to go first! And go without us!’
Adler falls silent. It seems his plan to discredit Paliades as the leader has failed once again. Then he decides to walk away, finds himself a nice corner to sit, away from others. Then, as usual, Iris, Orlevant, Ney’varìth and other elves gather in front of the epitaph and read the runes.
Of all Sun Mother has done,
This deed saved the day
For the sake of love alone,
She gave all away.
‘I think this means that the one’s sacrifice will be required to pass this area. But when? Where?’ says Orlevant.
‘I’ll tell you when we get there. Sacrifice, eh? It’s an interesting solution,’ says Paliades, coolly. ‘But I need to confirm something first, during our venture in the chambers of iron and fire.’
Iris comments, ‘Is it just my feeling or it’s getting very hot in here?’
‘Oh, of course it’s very hot,’ Paliades answers. ‘That’s because this is the engine room that supplies energy towards the other chambers. To regenerate the monsters within and operate the mechanical-magical devices, such as the giant fans, wind elementals, boulder-recharging switch, giant rock golem, golemium power-core eyes, mirrors of illusion, and so on.’
Iris nods. ‘Oh, I see. It’s a synergy between magic and science. So nicely made, I’d say.’
‘But be careful. Although it’s not a fiery inferno or a lava pit like you expected, this area is not less hazardous and obviously trickier. The engines take in fire energy from the lava pit in an active volcano nearby and process it into kinetic energy. As the flow of fire itself cannot be controlled, some exhaust valves are also incorporated there for several purposes: to dump excess combustion fire and poisonous residual gases, function as trap walls, and generate Fire Elementals. These functions altogether form a defense system that no being can possibly get through.’
‘Not unless he’s quick enough, strong enough, or clever enough,’ says Alexis coolly. These words may be interpreted as an insult to Paliades, but Alexis buries that thought straightaway by saying, ‘And I trust Lord Paliades possesses those three traits abundantly. Please, guide us through, Lord.’
Paliades doesn’t react to yet another butt-licking smart-talk and shouts, ‘Now let’s cut to the chase. Ready or not, here we go!’
The hunters get ready and get up at once. Although they are not recovered from their fatigue and injuries, but they all risked their lives for this ‘divine mission’ so far, and there’s no turning back now.
A dwarf hunter tries to rally himself and his comrades. He lifts his war hammer and shouts, ‘Get going or die trying!’ Almost all hunters including Robert’s party, Kyflynn and Desmond follow suit. ‘Get going or die trying!’
And then all hunters follow Paliades in an orderly manner to the next room.
The engine room is a vast area with multi-storied iron platforms on a stone floor. Giant steam engines stand in uneven rows, and a series of pipes and valves supplies both fire and water and processes them into steam in the tanks near the engines. And there are also exhaust valves that let out waste, hot steam, excess fire and water from the system or distribute them to other engines and chambers.
A vast water reservoir is located not far from the engines, with large valves sucking and transferring water to and from the reservoir with the help from the water pump. The water is supplied from the waterfall at the sanctum entrance.
Suddenly, a flying object flies over Carolyn’s head, giving her a start. ‘Awk! What the hell is that?’ she asks.