Ice Palace is one of the many dungeons that are found on the Aethers of Atlantis. How these dungeons came into existence, no one knows though from their structure, they are unlikely to be the product of nature alone. One theory is that the Ancients, the race that once ruled over Avalon made them for the purpose of storing their most prized creations. Indeed as most dungeons contain guides to rare Aura Techniques and powerful items, this theory has become the most favored by scholars.
The teleporter that they had arrived in was at a lower elevation than the Ice Palace. In order for them to reach the palace, the four of them had to climb a narrow winding path. Half way up, the temperature began to drop rapidly. By the time they reached the top, all of them except Ray had to put up an Aura barrier to protect themselves from the cold.
At the top of the stairs, the view that greeted them was breathtaking.
The Ice Palace dominated the Aether. Its icy walls stretched in all directions as far as the eye can see and reached so high that it blended in with the sky.
Ray and the three Apprentices stood in front of a massive door of ice. Its surface was carved with an array of symbols and writings.
The cold grew more intense as they got closer to the door.
“I think it is a good thing that Ray is with us” Hecate said as they arrived in front of the Ice Palace.
Merlin, Hecate and Fiora could feel the menacing power emanating from the Ice Palace. They knew then that their preparation was almost for naught.
“Who cares if it’s difficult” Merlin said out loud the thought that was going through his and his friends’ minds. “We knew that it wouldn’t be easy”. His resolve gave Hecate and Fiora strength and they glared at the door with more resolve.
Ray did not fail to notice this and smiled in admiration.
“You’re a Caster right?” Ray asked Merlin. “What do you think of the patterns on the door?”.
Merlin studied the patterns with a thoughtful look. It didn’t take long for him to notice.
His eyes widened. “It’s an Aura Technique” he said.
He stepped away from the door to take in the whole picture.
Ray smiled. “Good. You wanted to learn some Aura Techniques right, well this is one. Do it”.
It took Merlin ten tries before he got it right and when he did, seven columns of light appeared on the door and it swung open.
“Was that the Seven Points Unsealing Technique I just did?”, Merlin exclaimed as he recognized the Aura Technique that he had just performed. It was one that he previously only knew about but had not learned due to its difficulty.
Ray clapped him on the shoulder. “Congratulations”.
“But that was easier than I thought it’d be. It’s a Level 70 Technique. I’ve read about it and it seems so difficult”.
Ray pretended to yawn. “Yeah well, that’s because I simplified it” he said.
“What… you were the one who drew those symbols?” Merlin said with surprise.
“You’ll find that with a bit of creativity, a lot of Aura Techniques can be simplified so that they don’t consume so much time and Aura. Add a bit more creative flare and you can even make them more powerful, add effects and even make your own Techniques. This is lesson number 2”.
Merlin, Hecate and Fiora took all this in with open mouths and wide eyes. To be taught by the Legendary Hero was a dream come true for them. However, Ray’s face became more serious as they walked through the door and the temperature dropped so low that icicles began to form around them.
“But that was the easy part. Now comes the hard part”. Ray stared at a spot on the ground a few meters from them and the three Apprentices also focused their attention on what Ray was looking at.
A snow storm rose from the ground, rising to about twenty meters into the air. There it fell in on itself, concentrating and solidifying into the form of an ice dragon. The dragon’s icy scales sparkled more beautifully than the prettiest diamonds.
The four Heroes however didn’t have time to marvel at its beauty as the ice dragon began shooting down thousands of icy blades at them.
Merlin, Hecate and Fiora strengthened their Aura barriers which they had already tuned to be effective against ice based Aura or magic.
Ray on the other hand still did not use Aura Techniques but was nevertheless unharmed by the ice dragon’s attack. He avoided every single ice blade that came at him by a millimeter and even had time to give instructions to the Apprentices.
“Fiora. This one is yours. Let’s see what you’ve got”.
Fiora nodded and stepped forward.
She extended her left arm in front of her. Green Aura flowed down her arm to her fist and extended out to form a hunters bow. A Wooden Elf Hunters bow. A wooden arrow formed in her right hand.
Fiora shot the arrow. It went past the ice dragon’s barrage of ice blades and struck it in the neck. The arrow head barely pierced the dragon’s icy hide and seemingly causing no harm to it. But then, green tendrils began to spread out from the arrowhead. The ice dragon cracked and crumbled as a tree grew out of its body and roots and branches pierced it.
That wasn’t the end though.
The pieces of the ice dragon began to rise into the air and formed multiple smaller dragons.
Fiora shot another wooden arrow that formed another tree which destroyed one of the ice dragons, then another, but the ice dragons just kept reforming themselves.
Seeing that her Wooden Arrow – Tree Forming Technique was not working, Fiora summoned her sword. Roots grew out from the green Aura in her hand, intertwining and forming a Katana-shaped sword.
Despite her small and lithe build, Fiora apparently also packed a lot of power. Although her sword was made from Aura Weaving, and contained properties that made it sharper and more powerful than a normal sword, most of the work came from her own physical strength.
“So she’s mostly a Weaver?” Ray asked Merlin and Hecate. The three of them were standing a bit to the side, protected by a barrier that Merlin formed to protect them from the cold and the dragons’ attacks.
“She’s interested in becoming a Huntress but yes, she is naturally very good at Weaving”, Merlin answered. Hunters and Huntresses are another Hero specialty besides Casters. Unlike Casters who use long range Aura Techniques, Hunters mainly fight close to mid-range, using physical skills and weapons and support class Aura Skills.
“Lesson number 3, you can be a great Huntress with Weaving” Ray said before disappearing.
He appeared behind Fiora as one of the ice dragons slipped past her defense. He slammed the dragon into the ground with his bare hands then impaled it with a giant root from one of Fiora’s trees.
“You already have all the items and skills you need to easily take these dragons down”, Ray advised, indicating the ice dragon that he had downed.
Fiora looked at the dragon that Ray had taken down and her eyes widened as a realization dawned on her.
She de-summoned her sword and placed her hands on a root next to her feet.
Two ice dragons charged at her.
“I’ll help you a bit this time, concentrate” Ray told her as he stepped in front of her to face the dragons. He simply threw the ten-foot-long dragons with his bare hands as if they were rag dolls. The dragons opened their wings and renewed their charge from the air along with their two dozen or so other brethren.
At first, the tree whose roots Fiora held shook a little. A few leaves fell. The shaking became wilder and then dozens of wooden tendrils shot out from the trunk and the branches and snatched the ice dragons from the air and from the ground.
The ice dragons were not destroyed so they did not reform into more dragons. They struggled against the tree, but the tendrils outnumbered them three to one and did not break easily. And for some reason, the dragons caught in the tendrils did not use their Ice Aura Techniques. Or rather, they could not use their Aura Techniques.
“Very creative” Ray’s applause echoed through the hall.
“Why aren’t they freezing the tree or just simply cut through the tendrils with their claws, they should be able to easily do that?” Merlin asked and then he answered his own question. “You made it so they can’t use Aura. So that means they should…”
“Yup” Ray said as if he knew what Merlin was thinking. He just stood there, arms crossed and waited.
After a few minutes, the ice dragons just melted and disappeared.
Fiora let out a sigh of relief. “I wondered if it would work. The Aura Technique used to make them was extremely powerful and weaving a counter to it was difficult, I wondered if I had gotten it right and if I had enough Aura”.
“Lesson number four…” Ray said. “… Wooden Aura is exceptionally effective at weakening magic. It was one of the Techniques that we used in the war three years ago. Although not quite as good as it is with magic, with a bit of Weaving, Wooden Aura Techniques can also be used to block and restrain Aura Techniques”.
“Oh… is that why we have Wooden Aura lessons as part of the syllabus?” Merlin asked though he looked a bit disappointed. “I wasn’t very good at it though”. He sounded like it was the end of his career as a Hero but Ray placated him.
“Wooden Aura is a specialized Aura”. Ray said. This appeared to mean something to Merlin because he said “Oh” and did not seem overly worried about it anymore. Specialized Aura are those Aura that only people who are born with them are able to use. It could be learned but if someone is not born with it, they won’t be able to go very far no matter how they try.
“It is common among the Elves though. Most Elves are able to use Wooden Aura. In the other races, it is not so common. Overall though it is more common than other types of Aura and Abilities that are effective against Demons and this is the reason that the Academies have made it a compulsory part of the syllabus. If you have an affinity for it, you will be given the choice of further training. If you are not, then at least you know about it”