The Emberek and the Ice Giant

As the Southern Tribes prepared for war, a third tribe stayed hidden high up in the farthest reaches of the Western Mountains. This tribe was known as Emberek; the literal translation of the name was 'People of the Inward Fire'. Its society was a stark contrast to the more combative tribes in that they aspired to join the monastic order that protected the village. It had been and esteemed honor since the Sage's prediction that someone from the order may one day preside over all clans.

The Jeg'Erde, or the 'Ice Order', was unique in that it allowed it's monks to have families and live outside the compound in homes of their own making, and that is where this story begins.

It had been a long day for Elek, and an even longer night. Not only did he have to shovel the three feet of ice covering the rock gardens, but then he had to rake them, even as fresh snow began to build up, guaranteeing another day of labor. Then when he finally made it home, his wife Remeny needed help with their child, Beke, who'd been inconsolable the entire day. When it came time for bed, Elek welcomed the warmth of his wife and the cushioning of the straw mattress wholeheartedly.

Before he knew it, Elek found himself standing along the main passage leading from the Lava Fields to the Village. Behind him stood a colossal ice statue that was looming over him with its arms folded.

Elek immediately recognized the Giant from the tales of his childhood; though he could not yet tell if what he was seeing was vision, dream, or reality.

"Why are we here?"

The Giant, being made completely of ice, only pointed out toward the field. Though no words were spoken, Elek knew it was safe to go out there.

It was a long walk down the steep slope walkway; Elek could feel the temperature quickly increase as he descended. By the time he was at the bottom, he was sweat profusely, and had to remove his outer clothing until he was stripped down to only pants and a simple vest with his rawhide boots.

After taking a few minutes to adjust to the new conditions, Elek could hear a commotion off in the distance.

After moving closer, he could make out row after row of people – hundreds of them - all moving in unison. It looked like they were performing some ritual: at key steps and in regular intervals, the lava pools in the background seemed to respond; shooting magma upward. At other times, the earth seemed to heave and crack. After watching them from a distance for several minutes, the people started walking in formation.

Elek soon realized that the people were getting closer to him as they walked.

Before he could move out of the way, the formation was moving past him without even noticing his presence. As they started up the walkway toward his village, the horror of what was about to happen washed over Elek. The Order, while skilled, was small and stood no chance against such a large group.

Elek tried to give chase, but quickly found that no matter how hard he tried to run, no matter how fast his legs moved, he couldn't go anywhere. At this point the Ice Giant reappeared, though the ice started to melt away.

"What's going on? Why can't I fight them?" Elek asked the panic showing in his voice.

"You are not yet ready. If you had the ability, would you fight an army this size?"

Elek nodded. "To save my family, I would take on any Army; even if it meant my death."

The Ice Giant nodded before gesturing back toward the formation, which was now halfway to the Emberek Village.

"They are known as the Gyam Tribe; they are powerful Shamen as you have seen. They have mastered three of the known elements.

"What Must I do?" Elek asked the Giant, who was now almost the same size as him.

"Learn the three that best oppose it," the Giant replied as a wide grin crackled across its face.

Instantly, Elek found himself back at the Temple Courtyard, all bundled up again. The frigid breeze seemed welcoming after the time spent in the Lava Fields. The giant was there as well, though his armor seemed to be all but gone: only his face, forearms, and forelegs were still covered.

"The first thing you must do is learn to sense the elements around you. The best elements to counter the Shamen will be wind and water, and by virtue of the temperatures, ice as well. Unlike the warmer elements that require passion to sense, you must maintain a level of calm and serenity to sense-"

"Done," Elek replied, already seated in a meditative pose with his legs crossed and arms stretched across his lap.

The Giant grinned again. "It seems your time with the order was well spent. Now, the next step will be to control the elements you can sense. See if you can lift the snow around you."

Elek closed his eyes, and concentrated. He could feel the snow surrounding him, and he only let one word cross his thoughts: 'Up'.

"Very good!" the Giant bellowed. Elek opened his eyes and to his amazement, much of the snow in the Temple's courtyard was floating around him.

"What happens next?" Elek asked as he stood, maintaining his concentration on the snow.

The Giant took a few steps back, shedding much of the icy layer that had been covering him, leaving ice only about his wrists, boots, and helmet. That showed after was a pale, clean shaven man about eight feet tall with bright, glowing yellow eyes. He was built well, looking very much like a warrior: his right should was adorned with a curved metal plate that was covered in ice; his upper body was covered by a tunic, and he wore woolen pants over his waist and legs, secured by a large leather belt.

"Now comes the hard part: you need to make the snow warm up. This can be done a couple of ways. The first of which –"

"Done," the man replied, as he now had strands of water circling about him very quickly.

The Giant was shocked for a moment; he knew that Elek had a natural aptitude for this: that's why he was chosen, but for him to pick it up this quickly was unexpected, to say the least.

"How would you let it refreeze, or better – how would you make that water into a shield, or weapon?"

Elek cocked his head to one side slightly, confused.

"I don't understand… the air can do that on its own."

The Giant nodded then added, "Or, you can make it. Remember, you can control the wind as well as the water."

Elek paused for a moment, and then nodded as he closed his eyes and tried to focus on the air, while holding his sway over the water strands.

The giant waited patiently as time slowly ticked by. He looked to the sky and could see it fading at the Zenith; the vision he was forcing on this man would last much longer before morning came, and along with it, Elek waking up.

Moments passed as they were hours, but surely enough, the monk used the wind to whip the water strands into shards as the two elements swirled around him, and the Giant clapped in recognition.

"Your tribe just might stand a chance yet!" he bellowed as Elek opened his eyes, grinning widely.

"You need to remember these lessons. Soon, the Gyam will come to lay waste to your lands."

Elek shook his head. "No, they won't – Rauour. That is who you are, isn't it?"

The Giant's face twisted in puzzlement for a moment, then relaxed. When he replied, his voice was deeper, and had an echo the invoked visions of an active volcanic crater.

"So, you've figured it out?" Rauour's voice said, and the Giant folded his arms across his chest.

Elek nodded. "We've been preparing for this since the schism of the old village. Our elders believe that you'd come back, tempting us with power while pitting the tribes against each other. I thank you for the power you've shown me, but I'm afraid we've foiled your plan. By now, the elders have figured out this dream, and sent someone to warn the Gyam about your treachery."

The Giant rubbed his chin during the last bit of Elek's lecture.

"So that's who that guy was."

"What do you mean?" Elek asked, a little bit confused.

The Giant shrugged as Rauour's voice spoke again.

"You see, the whole time I've been here, I've also been at the other villages, tempting it's people with power and pitting them against each other. As your rider was heading for the village, I crafted a lava flow that enveloped him, and took his place disguised as you."

Elek's eyes widened as he found himself moving away from the Giant.

"Wait for it…" the Giant cautioned, pointing at Elek.

"As of about … now, the Chief of the Gyam thinks he just killed you, and his entire village can't wait to kill there would be conquerors."

"Elek twisted his head to the side slightly. "But when he sees me here -"

"It will be too late," the Giant interrupted as the sky finished fading away as Elek shot into consciousness and flew from his bed.

"What is it?" his wife, Remeny asked; an expression of alarm and concern on her face.

Elek didn't reply as he hurried to get his clothes on; only when the baby started crying was his concentration broken. The monk went to his wife's side as she picked up and cradled the child at the foot of their bed.

"Everything will turn out for the best, but there are dark times ahead. I need to warn the Order, and prepare for an attack."

Remeny gasped in shock. "Who would want..", her voice trailed off as the realization came about. Her shoulder slumped and she held the baby more tightly.

"So the elders were right all along?"

Elek nodded. "Not only that, but apparently the Red Beat can also be in many places at once; he's been pitting all of the villages against each other at the same time."

"I'll gather supplies and start moving everyone to the caves." His wife said; the resolve showing in her body language as she stood up and laid the now sleeping baby on their bed and started dressing herself.

Elek grinned; he'd chosen a strong wife, and that made him all the stronger as he set about warning the Order of the fighting that lie ahead.