A Warm Welcome at Mist Mountain
Treali scooped up armfuls of dirt and was ready to smother
the fire the minute I came charging through. Though less protected from the
blaze than I had been, she somehow had gotten through nearly unscathed. Lucky
girl, I thought with a wry grin. Or is it luck? Somehow, I don't think
even the luckiest of people can walk through a fire and be 110% okay.
What if it's… magic?
Okay, now I've officially crossed the
line into craziness, I thought. I watched with amusement as the hole in
the dome of light fibers healed itself and I listened to Maloporg use some colorful
language to describe Treali and me. It felt good to get on his nerves.
"Are you hurt, Tessa?" Treali asked,
trying to hide a grin as Maloporg shouted something about feeding us to Slorgs.
"Nope. Not much can hurt this Lupess,"
I said toughly, grabbing my staff (which I had luckily remembered to bring with
me). Then, I took my first good look at Mist Mountain.
Directly in front of me was a rough
piece of granite that seemed to whisper, reminding me of the mutterings of the
wind. I picked the stone up. It was moist as a river stone and light as a feather.
This mountain had small areas of snow on it, but fro the most part was covered
in various patches of grass, soil, lakes, groves of trees, and (to my horror)
towering infernos of flame. Thick curtains of mist veiled anything more than
fifty yards ahead of me. Random holes in the earth dotted the landscape, seeming
to go down and down forever, with no conceivable bottom. Some holes shone with
the light of a supernova, and others seemed to draw in darkness, like night
without moon or stars. Darkness like the eyes of the Elephante. Darkness like
the core of the Flame of Evil. I took a cautious step forward, drawing closer
to one of these holes of darkness. A glint of light at the bottom! So there
was a bottom! I simply had to see what was down there! I had to, and nothing
and no one was going to stop me! Straining my eyes in an attempt to see what
it was, I leaned forward…
And jolted as Treali grabbed my
neck fur and jerked me back. "What do you think you're doing?" I snapped quickly,
without thinking about what I was saying. Then, it dawned on me. Seeing tears
come to Treali's face, I put my paw around her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Treali." I whispered.
"It's not your fault," she wailed.
"Those holes… they're full of dark enchantments. You've got to… be careful…"
"Thanks for saving me," I said.
"Well, you've saved me so many
times… it was the only way I could repay you."
"No repayment needed," I insisted.
Then, I bent to examine a nearby lake. It was small, small enough almost to
be considered a puddle. The water was filthy, with every manner of leaf and
twig floating in it. But the odd thing about this lake was; the surface was
on fire. Low flames skittered across the surface, not visible from afar but
very noticeable if you took the time to draw close and watch. Tiny wisps of
smoke rose from the flames, vanishing almost as soon as they appeared. I stuck
my burned paw in the water, careful to avoid the dancing flames. The water was
warm and soothing, just the remedy I needed.
"Hey!" A snappish cry from behind
me made me whirl around in fright. A rather aggressive-looking pack of mountain
Lupes, a dozen of them, three adult males, five adult females and four pups.
Their coats were long and shaggy, even shaggier than mine, and the color of
old bark left to rot. Splotches of green, resembling mold or moss dappled their
backs. Worst of all, their eyes were filled with wild fury, eyes handed down
by generations of living in the roughs of the wilderness. Their fangs were larger
than those of a normal Lupe, slightly yellowed and gleaming dangerously. Their
claws were larger too, and sharper and more perilous than any claws I had ever
seen on a beast. These Lupes were survivors. The speaker, a male with a scar
across his left cheek and more green blotches than any of is pack-mates, turned
to me with a feral gleam in his eye. "This is our land. Scram!"
"I beg your pardon, sir, but my
companion and I were just looking for a place to rest," I said in my most diplomatic
voice. "We've been traveling for a long while…"
The briefest look of bewilderment
crossed the Lupe's face, but was quickly replaced by that dangerous gleam again.
"Shush. This is our land. Scram."
It occurred to me that centuries
of living away from civilized society had shrunk these Lupes' vocabulary. To
them, the world wasn't about words. It was about action. Eat or be eaten. Defend
your territory, or be left in the cold. Fight or die.
I tried communication again. "My
name is Tessalea. My friend… my pack-mate and I are tired. Can we rest here?"
"This is our land. Scram."
Hmm… maybe their vocabulary was
a bit more limited than I had anticipated.
One Lupess, a large one with a green-tipped
tail gestured to Treali. "Who be that?"
"Treali," I said, pointing at my
companion, who smiled shyly and waved at the primitive Lupes. "Treali the Grey
At those words, the entire pack
gasped. Low murmurings echoed throughout the pack. "Faerie?" "Here?" "Bad."
None seemed able to say more than any simple, monosyllable words, yet they all
seemed to know the word "Faerie" quite well. The splotchy-backed Lupe leader
turned his wrathful gaze back on his pack, who silenced immediately. Yet they
still seemed to be waiting anxiously for something, muscles tensed. I clutched
my staff tightly for comfort.
Then, he gave the command. "Kill
They charged. I scarcely had time
to lift my staff before they were upon us. All eight of the adult Lupes, against
me and my staff, whilst Treali cowered behind me, helpless and unarmed. If
only I had given her the staff, I thought. But it was too late now. I had
to get her to safety. "Get up a tree!" I shouted. "Lupes can't climb! Get up
a tree!" Treali nodded and hastily obliged, scurrying up a nearby maple. Before
I could utter another word, two of the Lupes pounced on me, sending me crashing
to the ground and knocking the wind from my lungs. I tucked myself into a roll
and leapt back onto my feet, unharmed. They charged again, and this time I was
ready. The staff hit the jaws of the first with a sickening crack. The second
got past the staff, only to deal with my teeth.
The third and fourth were ready
for me. This time, I did the charging, and met them on the banks of the fiery
lake. A smack to the ankles sent one Lupe in to take a swim, but exposed my
torso. The other Lupe took full advantage of this, digging her claws into my
chest. Meanwhile, her pack-mate emerged from the water, slightly burned but
Wounded, gasping for breath, and
quite a few enemies left to defeat. The circumstances weren't looking good for
me. Plus, my headache was starting to return. I put a paw to my forehead, as
if that would soothe my throbbing skull.
Bad move. Seeing my weakened position,
the Lupes struck. And for the third time, I was spiraling into blackness…
To be continued...