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Paul's Mountain

The Order of Karth: Chapter 1

By Michael J. WinePublished 2 months ago 5 min read
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Paul's Mountain
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Paul clung to the side of the mountain. His fingers ached, but they did not slip against the stone. His feet, bare calloused skin exposed, held his body up using the slightest of footholds.

The ocean waves crashed against the shore loudly, filling the air with the constant lull of their back-and-forth thrum. The sound was comforting like a lullaby, as though the earth wanted to put him to sleep.

Other than the bare gray stone immediately in front of his face, the whole world was bright with color. The blue sky mirrored the darker blue of the ocean, white clouds pairing with the white foam of the waves that broke against the sand. The sand was light brown and stretched in a thin line as far as he could see. Beyond the sand was the grass. A field of the greenest, tallest grass you've ever seen.

In the middle of all that flat green space, just a sprint or so away from the shore, was the mountain. It was the only mountain around, gigantic and steep. Its slopes were covered in grass and trees until about halfway up, then it was all just dark gray stone in huge flat sections. After the stone was the snow-covered peak. From the ground it looked like an enormous tooth, as though the earth itself were trying to bite the heavens.

Paul felt the blood rushing through the pathways of his body, from his heart to his straining fingers, to his feet, to his head. He could feel the pulses between the tips of his fingers and the stone. It was cold this high up, and there was a wind that blew over him, evaporating the drops of sweat that formed a thin shell on his skin. He needed to keep moving or he would start to shiver. If he began to shiver too much, he could loose his grip on the stone, and it was a long way down.

With care he moved his right hand to the next grip, checked his feet, lifted one into position, and moved his other hand. He continued, breathing evenly, lungs working at a constant pace. His movements were smooth and controlled, every motion, every folding and unfolding joint, maneuvered his body into just the right position. One mistake could mean his death.

From above there came the cry of a bird, the caw of one of the eagles that nested in the rocky heights just below the snow line. He was getting close now. He could see the lip of the stone just a few feet above him. His heart raced, and he forced himself to climb faster. He would not fail again. He had to reach the edge. He had to see what was there.

More birds cawed above him. His head jerked back and he saw them. A dozen or so huge white and brown eagles were circling in the bright blue sky above him. He cursed, abandoning his caution, and threw himself upward with all his strength, hands and feet flying to each hold in the stone.

The eagles cried out in anger and, he thought, something like surprise as they dove to attack. He'd never gotten this high before. The edge of the stone was there. He smiled in grim satisfaction as his fingers closed around the corner. His biceps and shoulders contracted and his thighs heaved, and then he was clear of the edge, rolling onto the flat surface beyond.

With cries of alarm and furry, the eagles surrounded him, filling the air with a cloud of blurred brown feathers and sharp pale beaks. He screamed as lines of pain seared his arms and back, the eagle's talons tasting his red blood.

He swung his arms blindly at the mass of bodies. One fist smashed into the side of an eagle's head and he heard its limp body smack on the stone floor. He wheeled in desperation, eyes search for anything that could be used to defend himself. There, in the steep stone wall of the mountain a few paces from the ledge, was a deep dark crack, just wider than his body. The entrance to a cave?

He screamed again as the talons painted fresh red lines on his back. And then he ran, arms flailing, to the crack in the stone. He was at the crack now, and was forcing his body into it. He'd misjudged the size at first, but he didn't care. He threw all of his weight into the space, heedless of the cuts and scrapes that the the stone was making in his skin.

The birds were quieter now, their screetches distant. Everything was dark, and his mind slowly caught up with his frantic body. He had escaped into the crack. He'd actually made it passed the eagles! He laughed, and the sound of it seemed to fade into the blackness in front of him, as though the tunnel through the stone went on and on and on.

It seemed to go on forever, that blackness, and time stretched and compressed like light on curved glass. His neck began to cramp from only being able to turn one direction. He longed to sit and rest his aching legs, but the tunnel was so narrow that he could not do so. He felt fear and desperation start to form a restless ball of energy in his midsection, and he began to push through the tunnel faster, harder.

All around the stone caught the sound of his ragged breath, amplified it, and threw it back at him. The gasps and pants grew into grunts that sounded far too panicked, too afraid. Was it really his own voice? When would the tunnel end?

At the thought, the walls began to squeeze more tightly around his body. It was subtle at first, and he thought it was just a narrowing of the passage. But then it became stronger, and he knew at once that the tunnel was somehow alive - somehow aware of his presence. And it wanted to kill him.

He cried out in terror as the stone walls crushed the air frush his lungs, sending sharp stabs of pain through his body as his ribs began to snap.

He tried to turn back, but it was too late. It was over.

Then, he heard a voice, one he had not heard before on the mountain. It was the voice of a woman, soft yet clear, gentle yet commanding as a general. The voice said, "Paul, come to the mountain. Find the order of Karth. Find me Paul. There is little time left."

Paul could not scream though the pain demanded it. His lungs were crushed. He did not know who had spoken, or if it was even real, but she was too late, regardless. He was about to die.

Paul woke up in a cold sweat at the sound of his own terrified scream.

Fantasy
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About the Creator

Michael J. Wine

I am a fantasy and science fiction writer, and I also like to write the occasional poem or essay. I aim to make my stories as unique and yet meaningful as I can, and I hope you enjoy them.

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