Deep in the Kältheim Mountains, where winter permanently resides, there is a series of caves and tunnels known as the Hall of Mirrors.
The rock is primarily basalt, dark and often smooth. Some of the caves and tunnels are carved from the rock, but most are natural chambers and lava tubes. Ice, clear as well-made glass, covers the surfaces of the rock turning them into dark mirrors.
The Hall is a treacherous place to navigate. The floor is slick and the endless reflections hide openings, turns, and even fissures in the floor. This hasn’t stopped explorers or treasure seekers. Legends tell of a powerful artifact, hidden in the heart of the maze. Other legends say a dragon once lived here and its hoard of treasures is still here for the taking. The determined, intrepid adventurers come, hoping to return home with glorious tales and fabulous wealth. Their bodies and gear litter the chambers and passages.
One creature does make its home here. It’s a white-furred mammal about as large as a medium-sized dog. It has a big round belly with a head that nearly disappears in the long, thick fur. It looks very cute but it’s a savage, effective hunter. The fur on its paws gives it traction even on the slick ice of the Hall. Its teeth are serrated for cutting flesh and its jaws are strong enough to break bones. It hunts in the mountains, taking on prey as fierce as trolls, and returns to the mirrored tunnels to den. It has learned to close its eyes when moving through the Hall, navigating by sound, smell, and touch.
Perhaps someday an adventurer, or a group of adventurers, will manage to tame or defeat these creatures. Perhaps they will be able to roam this place without slipping and falling, without becoming lost, and without going mad. Perhaps they will find a dragon’s hoard, covered in ice. Perhaps they will find a plain wooden box, tucked away by itself in a small chamber. And perhaps they will find a way to open this box, which has no seam, no hinge, and no lock. But I pray they do not.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.