Chapter 5:

Tal awoke in the Dark World, with Malen and the other Crones gathered in the Audience Chamber. Tal walked over to Malen and said "Tell Milla to meet me in the Hall of Welcoming as soon as possible." Then he ran out of the Audience Chamber, across the hall, and into the laundry shoot. He sped all the way down to Red 7, though his shoes were smoking when he got to the bottom.

If this keeps up, I'm going to need new shoes, he thought.

He ran out to the Hall of Welcoming and down the slope of the mountain as safely as possible. At the bottom, he met Milla and Ebbitt, sitting in a sleigh pulled by eight Wreska. Ebbitt, seeing Tal, smiled and said "Tal! Long time no see! How are things in the Castle?"

Tal hopped in and said "As good as can be expected, uncle. Do you still have the Codex?"

Ebbitt reached inside his furs and pulled out a small, rectangle of crystal on a chain. He set it on the floor of the sleigh as it grew taller and wider, reaching its full size. Tal asked, "How long would it take for three people in a sleigh towed by eight Wreska to get to the Mountain of Shadows?"

Words appeared on the Codex's surface, in Chosen script and Icecarl runes. "Approximately 3 sleeps without interference."

Without interference from what? Tal thought.

"With all the breaks in the Ice, the creatures that live on the Ice will be disturbed, and might act aggressively if we get too close." Milla said.

Tal gulped. He did not fancy a fight with another Merwin.

"Let's hope we don't run into any of the little blighters, then." said Ebbitt.

"I wouldn't exactly call them 'little', uncle." Tal muttered.

With that utterance, Milla snapped the reigns, and the Wreska shot forward, their X-toed hooves clacking on the Ice as the sleigh sped over the frozen turf. As they got farther from the Castle, it got steadily colder, and Tal made his Sunstone produce more heat to keep him warm. Milla, being an Icecarl, relied only on her inner and outer furs for warmth. Ebbitt used a combination of his furs and his Sunstone to keep the chill at bay. They traveled this way for some time, until Milla yelled "Ware water!" and quickly swerved to the right. All around them were holes in the Ice, which Milla was dodging with the ease of long practice. As they passed the holes, Tal peered into them, and discovered that Malen was correct: no Slepenish filled these holes. As Tal watched several new cracks appeared in the Ice and began to grow into holes.

"What's causing the cracks in the Ice?" Tal yelled over the noise of cracking Ice.

"I'm not sure!" Milla yelled back, "Look in the water in the holes and see if anything appears!"

Tal leaned over the side to look-and wished he hadn't. What he saw was a wall of silver-bright scales pass by, and kept passing….and passing…and passing. It had to be two hundred stretches long, at least!

"Milla," Tal asked, "What do Norrworms look like?"

She said "They look like long worms, but with bright scales, are very long, and usually den in pairs."

Tal started. "You mean there are two of these things!"

Milla glanced over her shoulder back at him. "Is that what you saw under the Ice?"

He nodded.

"We might be in a spot of trouble, old lad." Ebbitt said.

Then, just as Ebbitt made that statement, the Ice directly in front of them cracked, buckled, then shattered. A gigantic shape rose from the Ice, a silver-bright shape hundreds of stretches tall with a mouth filled with rows of jagged teeth.

"Norrworm!" Milla yelled, and turned aside.

The Norrworm came crashing down onto the Ice only a stretch from the sleigh. They were showered in chunks of Ice and snow but pressed on. Looking back as it rose out of the Ice, Tal noted that it had no eyes. It must be able to sense us by other means, he thought.

Milla whipped the reins to urge the Wreska to move faster still, so that they were speeding across the Ice at a break-neck pace. The Norrworm came after them, smashing through the Ice as it followed the sleigh. The sleigh was faster than the Norrworm, but not by much. The Norrworm was catching up as the sleigh raced across the Ice. Then, on the horizon, they saw a mountain of ice and snow-Frozen Selski Peak.

"Get us close!" Tal yelled, "I have an idea that may help!"

Milla nodded and made a beeline for the mountain, the Norrworm hot on their trail. As they got close, Tal raised his Sunstone, and, focusing Red light in it, sent out a razor-thin Red Ray of Destruction, slicing a huge chunk of ice clean off the mountainside. It slid, then rolled and tumbled down the mountain, landing with a crash on top of the Norrworm. The Norrworm gave out a bellowing screech, and then died, crushed beneath the ice.

"Well done." said Ebbitt. "I couldn't have done better myself."

Couldn't have done it yourself, Tal thought. But he let that thought go, for they had reached their destination-The Mountain of Shadows.