Beginning the climb (Talia, p. 50)

She is at the base of the mountain again; the ground below her is scorched. Most of the snow has been melted away, but the caldera is otherwise empty. The air is still, not even birds are audible. There is no sign of the beast, for which she is grateful. Looking down at her hands she finds she is holding a small gem. Reddish-brown in hue, it sparkles and pulses with a life of its own in the eerie green light. “A gift” she says, “and no one to give it to.” Carefully pocketing the gem and securing the pouch, she makes her way to the edge and the treacherous climb to the snow covered trees.

The path lies before her. The tracks she left in the snow still visible, as if she had only just left, rather than days having passed. The pulling sensation she felt before is faint, but directs her eyes to the mountain peak. She continues slower, wary of the unseen dangers ahead. If it will accept her, she may yet find answers. The miles pass slowly and weariness creeps into her bones. Progress is slow, the mountain seeming no closer than when she had begun. Perhaps if she were to call out for it? She shudders at the thought, the memory of that alien mind pressing against her own. No, she would walk, and meet it on her own terms.

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