5 - Silence on the Mountain

5 - Silence on the Mountain

A Story by Stories Of Atlas

An adventure takes place far from civilsation


Chapter 1

Her eyes flashed open, the numb fog of waking suddenly filled her body and mind, those first few moments of blissful confusion that wash the senses, marking the transition between subconcious dreaming and concious reality. The fresh blue sky empty of cloud and a bright sun that seemed like a ball of ice. Coldness surrounded her body, a high pitched whistling sound, a yell of panic from the middle distance and the sound of running, people shouting, someone screaming and then nothing.

Conciousness assaulted her body once again, her eyelids peeling open slowly, the ache of her limbs by her side, darkness this time, the more she stared upwards the more points of light became visible. She tried to move, to raise her body but a stabbing pain in her shoulder forced her back down again. The bitter cold in her bones froze her from the inside, the warmth of a nearby fire crackled and toasted her cheek. Even a slow turn of the head was painful and took considerable effort, shadowy figures surrounded the fire, solemn, shivvering. They talked in low voices to each other.

"She's awake" one of them said, pointing in her direction.

Two larger figures stood up and approached and then nothing.

A dull pain invaded her dream, as though she were being dragged away. The utopia of her mind was ruined and shades of black filled her paradise. The pain, dull at first was growing, sharper and hotter, hotter and sharper, the pain stabbing her with red hot burning, searing agony overwhelming every sense. Her eyes opened and she sat up, her head spinning dizzily as blood rushed about her body, she was surrounded on all sides, strong hands pinning her down. Her fists whirled in front of her, striking the nearest with a solid backhand sending him reeling backwards. She was on her feet and running before she realised, staggering away, gripping her shoulder to ease the pain, the fire still inside her burning the flesh around her shoulder. She fell to the ground with a crunch, the cold beneath her, enveloped her, snow. She looked up, exhausted,

"Snow? Where the hell am I?" she muttered

The cold eased her pain and she rolled over onto her back, the confusion in her head beginning to settle as her heart rate slowly started to drop to a normal level once more.

The shadowy figures approached, she counted five now, they were laughing. One of them stepped forward to her, reaching a hand down to help her to her feet.

"Glad to see you're back Captain" he said, his gruff voice trying to hide his amusement.

She reached up a hand and was helped to her feet.

"Sorry to wake you up like that, you had some shrapnel in your shoulder from the explosion, we had to remove it and seal the wound. I'm afraid to say that we couldn't find a needle and thread" he laughed again and pointed to a nearby fire and a sword on the ground, the tip of which still glowed red.

She smiled and was helped to a seat.

"Thanks Jack" she said, her confusion clearing "What happened here?"

A hand rested on her shoulder, a hand she recognised as her first mate Headlys.

"You really don't remember?" he said "You must have landed hard Elissa. As you can see, we have a little problem"

Elissa looked up and examined her surroundings for the first time since regaining conciousness. What she beheld wasn't pretty. They were surrounded by mountain peaks that stretched high in every direction around them. The air was thin and the ground covered in a deep layer of snow. There was wreckage everywhere, wooden beams, netting, steel cannons, the deflated remains of a blimp canopy lay lifelessly over the ground.

"What happened to the rest of the ship? The crew?" she asked

The five figures looked at each other until Jack stepped forward. "From what we could tell, from the confusion, the ship split in half when we crashed, most of it is at the bottom of the drop." he said pointing to a sheer drop a few feet from the edge of the camp."I'm afraid we lost most of the crew"

Elissa glanced around "Seriously? This is all we have?" she cursed under her breath and buried her head in her hands. "What happened?"

As soon as she had asked she had a sharp recollection of the events that led to this. Fragments of memories filled her mind at once. The battle with a rival ship, being forced into a storm to escape, total confusion, and her orders to fly into the mountains to escape.

"So we hit a mountain?" she asked

"Yes" it was Headlys soft voice that replied "It wasn't your fault, it was the only choice, we'd all be dead if we'd stayed in the storm, or went back for another fight, we were out gunned"

She cursed again and looked up. "What was that whistling sound?" she asked

"What sound?" Headly asked "You mean after we crashed? I thought you were unconcious"

"I stirred for a few moments"

"The boiler went critical, it exploded, that's why theres no stern any more. We lost Peters and Jacob in the explosion, the rest of us were lucky"

"Sounds like we lost a lot" she said regretfully. They each bowed their heads and let the silence surround them. Elissa pulled her coat tight around her, the cold starting to make her shivver. They were all wearing heavy coats with hoods, Elissa had always told them that they didn't know where they'd end up and so had to pack for every eventuality. The hold was always half full of equipment for the crew, most of which would never be used. Luckily they had spent a couple of hours in the cold mountain air before the crash.

"Right" Elissa said chirpilly, standing up and clapping her hands "Looks like we ain't going anywhere for a while. We need to set up camp"

"She's definitely back" Jack said with a smile

"Stow it" Elissa bit back "We need more firewood and we're going to need shelter. Start scavaging through the wreckage we need tents, beds, material for coats and bedding. We need a bigger fire and we need food. Headly pick a man, take swords or try to find a bow and scout the area. The rest of you get scavaging whilst I think of a way to get you dogs out of this mess."

"Aye Captain!" they all shouted in unison and dispersed to deal with their jobs.

She watched them walk away with a certain amount of pride. When she wasn't being watched she winced in pain and gripped her shoulder, the wound was still searing and the shock of the situation still had her shaken. She looked up into the crisp mountain sky, no clouds, no scars, unaffected by any of lifes trials, unknowing of their plight. She wished she could fly off into it and leave all this, all of her past behind.

It took her time to realise how lucky the five remaining crew had been, after surveying the camp and the wreckage she could make a series of assumptions as to what had happened. The initial impact with the side of the mountain must have weakened the integrity of the ship, it must have split almost completely in half, seperating the port from the stern. The extra weight on the blimp would have been too much for the rigging and the port side just ripped and fell to it's doom. The stern would then have shot up into the air, still attached to the blimp without enough weight to keep it level. Elissa remembered hanging on as the ship was dragged along the side of the cliff until the blimp punctured. The wreckage then tumbled someway until sliding to a halt on this pass.

What was left was a scene of total devastation, but also a scene of a miracle. Of the six survivors, none had been badly wounded and all were on their feet and working to find a way out.

Elissa watched them work as she scouted around the wreckage herself.

"Come on you dogs" she shouted "Sunset in about five hours"

The work was slow and difficult, as the sun was setting the remaining few looked on as Elissa inspected the camp. The canvas of the blimp had been butchered, enough material had been recovered to build three tents which provided a strong wind break against the harsh mountain wind. Flecks of snow had started to fall already over the blazing fire, stacks of wood had been piled up nearby and covered in cloth to keep them dry. The hunting party had returned an hour before with three hares which were currently being gutted on a rock at the far end of camp, the rich scent of blood covering the crisp clean air, blood had stained the pure snow of the camp already, the mark of civilisation had been made.

"Great work everyone" Elissa said, her voice full of pride "We might even survive the night" she laughed. She looked around the faces of her crew "We need to work hard and pull together, I'll get us out of this mess. Now, take the night off, I believe Jack found a keg of ale in the wreckage"

With that the men cheered and took up seats around the fire. Elissa stood at the back alone and watched, lost in her thoughts, she turned down the offer of a drink and instead retreated to the comfort of her tent.

It was the largest of the three but was still too small to stand in. The walls were double thick for insulation but inside it was still bitter cold.

She took the hood from her head and shook her long red hair free, it curled past her shoulders elegantly, her delicate features making her look more like a rich noble than a pirate. Two pointed, Elven ears emerged from her hair, she had a defiant look, sharp features with large brown eyes staring out with dark sorrow. A tattoo surrounded her left eye, an ancient runic pattern that she shared with each of her crew members, marking her to them and them to her. A tear fell down the tattoo, it slowed on it's descent and froze by her soft red lips. She had lost a lot in the crash, her ship, everything she owned, but worst of all, her crew, her family.

She took a deep breath and shrugged the coat from her shoulder, her wound was still sore, the bleeding had stopped, the charred flesh that remained still felt as though it was smouldering. She pressed her palm against it, the cold skin easing the pain a little. She raised it back up and wiped the solid tear from her face. She was tying her hair back when she heard her name being called from outside of the tent.

"Captain?" it said

"Come in" she replied

The tent flapped open and Headly looked in "I brought you some rabbit Ma'am"

In his hand was a chunk of meat, he offered it over to her and she received it hungrilly. She bit into the cooked flesh and tore a piece off, chewing noisilly. Headly remained at the opening

"I was hoping to see you tonight Captain" he said "I saw something whilst on the hunt"

"Oh?" she said still deeply involved in her meal

"I saw footprints" Elissa paused, the meat still at her lips, her eyes moving from side to side as she contemplated what this meant.

"Can you tell anything from them?" she asked eventually

"Not a lot, they were so faint. It's hard to tell when they were made, I would say within a week perhaps. I believe it was just one person though"

She slowly bit into the rabbit. "Very good" she said finally "I'll think about it" she smiled confidently at him.

"Thanks Captain" Headly said and began to leave the tent

"Oh Headly" she interupted

"Yes Captain"

"Don't tell anyone else for now" she said "Let the men celebrate"

"Yes Captain" he said as he left.

"Tracks in the snow? Another thing to worry about" she thought to herself as she finished her meal. "Perhaps he had been mistaken, after all, he wasn't out there alone. Headly was an experienced tracker though"
She shook herself free from her worries. Outside her tent the men sang songs as they drank, she heard them telling stories of previous adventures, past glories that they had lived and shared. She listened happily as she lay on her makeshift bed. "Tomorrow" she thought "Worry about it all tomorrow"

Chapter 2

The morning sun had started to rise when Elissa emerged from her tent. The fire was still burning and Headly was standing at the edge of the cliff taking small bites from a hunk of bread. He turned when he heard movement.

"Morning" he called out
Elissa just nodded, throwing a few more pieces of wood onto the fire. It had snowed in the night, the remnants of yesterdays exertions, the blood from the hares and the footprints had all been hidden away.

"Looks like we got a clean slate this morning" Elissa said, warming her hands in the fire "Have you been to sleep yet?"

"Nah, well I had a nap, I've been keeping my eyes open" He joined her at the fire "Nothing to report though"

"Good" she smiled at him "I'm glad you're around. Go and get some sleep though, I don't need people fighting fatigue as well as starvation"

He smiled back. "Aye captain, see you at midday"

Her eyes followed him as he walked away and disappeared into the tent. The crewman had squeezed themselves into one tent, huddling together for warmth, leaving a third tent for equipment and storage.

Standing by the fire alone Elissa had a chance to admire the view. The calm of the mountain, no matter what had gone wrong in order to get here, in the still, in the silence, everything seemed right. The sun flowed slowly across the snow touching everything. Across the cavernous drop even more peaks were visible, jutting into the sky like vicious teeth rising to impossible heights. The view was totally alien to her, the childhood she spent in the forests, and life inbetween on the seas and in the skies, the mountains were a dreamland, a place of new dangers previously unimagined. She allowed herself a little smile.

Elissa grabbed a tankard from the pile of wood, no doubt one of the crew had left it the night before. Filling it with snow she held it over the fire until it melted. "At least water wouldn't be a problem" she thought to herself.

She had drank half of the tankard and was relaxing when the sound hit her. Like a massive horn being blown off in the distance, it was deep and intimidating, a sound which caused everything to vibrate. It sounded out long and low. The crews tent erupted and everyone milled around the fire, a sense of panic about them, Jack had already drawn his sword and he handed another to Elissa

"What's that?" they each asked, looking to Elissa for answers.

The sound faded and blasted out once again. Filling the air with it's ominous tones, it's sense of forboding. It faded away and left them in silence once again, Elissas heart racing.

"What was that?" Crewman Woods asked

Elissa looked around the nervous faces of her crew, she handed the sword back to Jack. "It was a horn" she said.

* * *

A couple of hours had past since the sound invaded the camp. The final rabbit had been stripped of it's meat and passed around the survivors.

"We need to find more food" Elissa was telling the men "If we are to survive a trek down the mountain we can't just go without preperation" she had gathered the crew around the fire once again. Their collective worry was creating a tension in the camp and she wanted them thinking about something else "Over the next few days we will remain here, in this camp, where we are safe. We will collect food and store it ready for a days trek. We will plan further when things arise"

The crew looked at each other with uncertainty. Elissa picked up on this instantly

"Come on, look lively" she said with a grin "We've been through worse than this, remember those cannibals on Satir island" the crew relaxed and laughed a little.

"Jobs" Elissa continued "Hunting needs to continue of course, I'll take Headly and Woods out along the southern trail, we'll scout out for a path down the mountain as we go. The rest of you get back in the wreckage, we need everything you can find, rope, wood, weapons and containers" she looked around hoping that her call for weapons hadn't raised any questions amongst the crew.

"Aye Captain" they all shouted once again and got to their work. Woods remained by the fire. "Aye Captain" he said

"Good, we need bows Woods, I'll go wake Headly meet at the southern side of camp in about ten minutes"

"I don't have a watch Captain" came the reply
"Just get the bows and wait for us then" she countered with a reassuring smile.

"Aye aye" he said and jogged off through the thick snow.

Elissa turned to the crews tent, Headly had already emerged and was pulling the hood over his head, his brown hair disappearing beneath the fur. He was already starting to grow a wiry beard and he smiled as he saw Elissa approaching

"I heard you call my name" he said "It's difficult to sleep in the cold"

"So you know we're going hunting?"

"Aye Captain" he replied

"Good" she said looking around her cautiously "I want you to take me to those tracks you found yesterday"

"I'll try my best, no doubt they'll have disappeared by now but I think I can take you to where they were"

"Good good" she said beginning to walk away, she turned around and added "Oh yes, we'd better go out fully armed, swords and bows. I don't want to regret anything more on this trip"


The wind whistled across the camp turning over the top layers of snow, a soft dust that danced underfoot. Elissa reached down a gloved hand and picked up a clump of snow, placing it to her lips. The cold felt good, she breathed in deeply and took a bite.

Looking ahead at the hunting trail there wasn't much to see, she stood at the end of the camp and gazed through a valley, the clearing that they had camped in was likely the scene of some ancient landslide as the two exits disappeared between two peaks. The blinding white made it difficult to see but the trail curled from view not far away.

A hand on her shoulder made her twist suddenly, dropping the snow from her hand

"Sorry" it was Headly "I brought you your sword" He handed her the hilt of her cutlass. It was a beautifully elegant weapon, a needle thin blade with a vicious point, a precision weapon for a skilled swordsmith. She took it happily

"I thought I'd lost this, thank you" she almost whispered. Her hand almost disappeared into a protective metal webbing that extended down over the hilt. She thrust and stamped the blade through thin air, the blade sweeping and slicing through the air.
"I never get tired of that sound, the blade tearing up the air itself" she smiled happily and in one movement threaded the weapon through a belt at her side.

"Ah and here comes Woods with some bows" They both turned to face the approaching Crewman "Looks like we'll be underway then" she smiled, raising an eyebrow at Headly

* * *

The mountain path was difficult to traverse. The three pirates more used to wooden planks or sand than they were of snow and rockfaces. The cold ate at them from outside and hunger from within. Headly led the way, followed a few yards behind by Elissa and then Woods at the back, each held a bow with an arrow threaded at their fingertips, ready to pierce the flesh of any creature that they might find along the way.

Elissa was happy to realise that the path they were taking, even though it was rugged, was mostly heading downhill, she felt a lot more optimistic about the next couple of days, she could confidently lead her men to safety. Her thoughts over took her as they continued down the path. She wondered where she would get another boat from, remembering the difficulty in obtaining the first one. She doubted her luck with another round of Garot with a drunken ships Captain. Maybe she'd try her luck down at the docks in Arcadia a few good men, a strong plan and she could easily steal a vessel, sail it the old fashioned way back to a few ports along the coast near the Elven border and she could assemble a crew easily and then on to more adventures.

She looked up and realised that Headly had crouched low in the snow, his bow raised. She stopped and raised a fist, the signal for Woods to halt. She raised her own bow ready and tried to work out what Headly had spotted. She squinted hard and scanned the horizon. The path had opened up much wider here, the area was relatively flat and clear. There, just ahead, movement.

Elissa had been looking for another rabbit but up ahead was a large bear, padding it's way away from the three pirates, it's pure white fur shimmering in the light. Elissa motioned to Woods to move up and they both met up with Headly in a line.

"What do you think?" Elissa whispered

"We need to move now" Headly said "Or we'll lose it"

"Ok, here's the plan" Elissa turned too Woods "You move left along the edge go now, and be quiet" turning to Headly "You go right, stay low, when you see my arrow land, attack"

The three split up Elissa, crouching low, made her way forward taking large steps that sunk deep into the snow upto her shins. She toyed nervously with the feather on the arrow, her finger stroking it as she trod closer and closer to the target. Glancing left she could see Woods reach his destination, he had drawn his arrow ready to unleash. To her right Headly was hidden from view behind a large boulder. She assumed they were all ready to go. She drew back on the bow tight, the wood creaked from the strain. She breathed out softly, a veil of mist escaped her lips.

The bow snapped under the pressure sending the sound bouncing from the cold rocks around the clearing rach time the sound bounced it seemed to get louder and louder. The bear instantly turned around to see the confused figure of Elissa standing examining the two sections of her bow. With a roar it turned and started pounding it's way effortlessly across the snow.
Looking up sharply at the roaring animal, fear filling her eyes she screamed "FIRE!" to her cohorts, arrows zipped through the air around the bear, each one narrowly missing it's target as it drew nearer to the Captain.

She swore under her breath and reached for her sword, drawing it quickly and holding it ready at her side glancing nervously to her left and to her right, twisting her ankles into the ground to best make a solid foundation to fight on.

The bear grew closer and closer, it's black eyes glaring menacingly and it's muscles rippling under white fur. It's breath burst from it's fanged mouth which seemed to be curled into a demented smile. She raised her sword in her right hand took a fighting stance ready for the impact when Headly let fly his final arrow. It buzzed through the sky and smashed into it's target, hitting it squarely in the neck, piercing the flesh and sending a plume of blood shooting from it's body, staining the snow nearby. The bear roared in agony as it collapsed to the floor and slid to a halt at Elissas feet.

Elissa fell backwards in relief, the sword still gripped in her hand.

Woods was the first to run up to her "Captain? Are you ok?" he said, his voice wavering with panic

Elissa just laughed "I'm fine" she said "Good shooting".

"Thanks" Woods said enthusiastically, joining in with the laughter, his cheeks flushing. He reached a hand down to her. She released the sword and slapped her palm against his, rising to her feet and replacing the sword in her belt. Woods examined the bear, ripping the arrow from it's body.

"This'll feed us for a while" he said happily "If we can get it back to camp"

There was no reply. Woods looked up. Elissa was looking over towards Headly who was walking towards them slowly, his face crossed with concern.

"Whats the matter?" Woods asked, turning from one to the other.

"Headly?" Elissa said "What's that?"

In Headlys hand was a tankard, the same kind of tankard that the crew were drinking from the night before.

"I found this over by the rock Ma'am" he said, throwing the tankard on the floor before them "Someone was in our camp last night"

Chapter 3

The trio returned to the camp dragging along the bear behind them, luckily they had taken ropes with them and were able to slide the bear along most of the journey. They left it laying lifelessly at the edge of camp and paused to catch their breath.

"No-one say a word of what we found to anyone" Elissa whispered through deep breaths, the three of them were crowded around each other, bent over double and breathing hard.

"Aye" was the reply

"Good, with any luck we'll be gone before anything happens. At night the three of us will take shifts to watch the camp"

As she finished uttering her orders the three crewman were joined by the rest of the camp.

"Wow, look at the size of that" exclaimed Jack. "We needn't worry about food for a while"

"Right" smiled Elissa "You have Headly to thank for this catch, damn thing nearly had me for lunch, looks like we managed to turn the tables on it though"

The crew all laughed together.

"With these things lumbering around the wilds though I think it best we all carried swords with us. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious" Elissa eyed Woods and Headly knowingly "You never know what might roam into camp"

She strode over towards the fire, seeking the inviting red warmth. Frost had gathered on her clothing and it was starting to get dark again.

"Woods" she shouted back "Watch over the preperation of the bear, I don't want an inch of it wasted"

"Aye Captain" they all shouted back.

Elissa sat by the fire. Her mind racing. She didn't want to startle the rest of the crew, they were already lacking food and water, she didn't want to cut down their sleep as well. She kept telling herself that this was the right choice. The only choice.

She looked back at her companions, they were dragging the bear back towards the far corner of the camp, they were laughing and sharing jokes like nothing had happened, like this was normal. She didn't want to take that away from them. They would all be armed from now on, and on the look out for wild animals.

Whoever had strayed into camp though was smart enough to have avoided Headly and to have cleaned their tracks up. She looked over towards the pile of lumber by the fire, the tankards had been left their all night. Whoever it was had come right into the center of their camp, inches from where they slept.

The thought sent a shiver down her spine and made her feel sick. She wasn't used to feeling so vulnerable, she longed to be back at sea, where enemies can't sneak around, where each vessel works as a team, fighting alongside friends, people you trust, people you love. Up here, on the mountain, the rules seem different. The mountains seem to close in up here, every second is about survival.

There was a cheer from the other side of camp as the men successfully dragged the bear to it's place of desicration. Jack handed Woods the sword with mock ceremony with Woods bending too one knee, a broad grin across his face as he received the sword. He buried it deep into the belly of the creature, spilling it's guts across the snow, spoiling it forever. The group let out another cheer and most of them dispersed, allowing Woods and Jack the pleasure of slicing the meat from the bears bones.

Tankards were filled with snow and placed over the fire, ready for celebration. The men were in high spirits indeed, Elissa tried to join in with them but she was deeply concerned for the night. She left the men by the fire and decided to walk the circumference of the camp.

Headly watched her from the fire as she completed lap after lap of her rotation. They had returned to telling stories about their pasts, stories of adventure and hyperbole. Jokes and songs that meant something to them, sharing their souls with a smile and a laugh. Headly just listened, he rarely shared any information about his past and the crew knew better than to ask about a quiet mans life. A smile crossed his lips as Alex finished a particularly filthy story from his last shore leave and he stood up as the men laughed and patted Alex on the back when the ground started to shake. Not a continuous shake, a rhythmic thump thump.. thump thump.

Everyone stopped what they were doing as the vibrations got louder and louder, the noise that accompanied them started so low that no-one had noticed it to begin with but now it was getting louder, like thunder.

Elissa ran back to the center of the camp "What's going on?" she asked

Headly was first to answer "I'm not sure, earthquake?"

"No way, it's gone on too long and it's not continual" Elissa countered.

Woods and Jack joined them by the fire "What's happening?" Jacks voice trembled "It feels like the mountain's collapsing"

"No" Elissa replied "It sounds more like..."

Then it rounded the corner

"Footsteps" Elissa managed to finish as the team stood in complete shock at the creature that faced them.

Standing, towering above the north entrance to the camp was a vicious beast that none of them had seen before. It stood over five meters tall and rocked heavy on four short legs. It's hooves scratched at the snow with long, yellowing claws. It's head swayed low as it sniffed the ground with bone like spines protruding from it's head and barberous rows of teeth lining it's mouth. It's nostrils flared as it sniffed the snow around the edges of the camp.

"No-one move" Elissa hissed "It can smell the blood"

The six adventurers froze by the fire, six hands slowly moving to their belts and readying weapons as silently as they could. The beast eyed them suspiciously, tilting it's head one way and then the other in quiet contemplation.

"Take the bear, leave the camp, take the bear, leave the camp" Elissa whispered over and over, willing the creature to do her bidding.

It's head lowered again and sniffed the ground, red blood speckled the snow around it's feet, the remains of the bear was just a few yards away from it.

"Take the bear, leave the camp, take the bear, leave the camp" continued Elissa. They were making small steps away from the beast, trying to seem less threatening to it's meal.

It raised it's head and glared directly at Elissa, staring her down, directly into her eyes

"Oh no" she whispered as it roared a terrifying, beastial roar that echoed loudly, a roar that seemed like it surely must bring the mountain down on their heads. It lowererd it's head and charged at the party.

"Run, run run" Elissa screamed and ran to the side, it's horned head lowered and narrowly missed her as she dived forward rolling into the snow. It made full contact with her tent and shook his head violently, destroying it in one move. It roared again and lunged forward seeing Headly, he dived to the side just in time, the animals head clipping his boots as he dived, sending him spinning through the air and sliding to a halt in the snow.

"What the hell is that thing" panted Elissa as she watched it charge at amazing speed. It's speed and agility deceptively hidden within the large cumbersome rhino like body.
"Woods!" she yelled "Watch out!"

He dived out of the way just in time.

Headly ran up to her. "We need a plan" he panted "We can't keep diving out of it's way"

"Agreed" she replied "I'll get it's attention you stick it in it's side, got it?"

"Aye" he said

"Yeah, aye" she said rolling her eyes.

Headly ducked behind the mound of firewood ready for the signal to strike.

"OI!" Elissa shouted at the animal "OVER HERE!" She waved her arms over her head, attracting the creatures attention, hoping to make it feel threatened. It spotted her instantly, it's body spinning around with ease to face her. "THATS RIGHT YOU UGLY B*****D!" she yelled and it slammed it's front hoof into the ground over and over again, kicking snow behind it.

It lowered it's head and charged, Elissa held the ground firmly still waving her arms above her head, the sword in her hand swishing through the air. The ground shook as it gained momentum getting closer and closer to it's target. Elissa held her ground, her face contorted in a grimace of fear as adrenaline coursed through her veins.
It's head swung low as it prepared to swat her down with a move of it's muscular neck and jaws, it's teeth protruding from it's mouth, covered in saliva in anticipation of the meal.

"HEADLY NOW!" Elissa screamed as she dived out of the way of the charging beast.

As she dived out of the way Headly emerged from his cover, his sword drawn ready to stab a mortal wound. The creature saw him at the last moment as the sword was thrust forward against the flesh on the animals side. It lost it's balance as it tried to turn to counter the attack. The sword however, was no match for the animals skin and failed to pierce the thick hide, Headlys wrist twisted and the sword glanced off the beast. Headly crashed to the floor, cursing loudly to himself at the failure of the plan. The monster swayed, it had tried to twist around, the shock of seeing Headly in it's peripheral vision had caused it to lose balance, the momentum of the charge was too much for it to control and it collapsed on it's side, hitting the ground and causing the ground to shake violently. It began to slide along the slick snow and ice it's clawed hooves scratched at the ground wildly as it moved uncontrollably with some speed across the snow directly towards the edge.
Elissa was the first to realise what was happening. Her eyes opened wide at their good fortune. The beast was unable to slow itself, at the speed it was going it would be over the edge. It breathed heavily as it rolled and slid across the snow which was quickly melting under it's warm body.
"Go you monster" Elissa prayed "Fall, come on, fall"

The claws scratched at the ground as the beast slid and slid until the edge. It's back end slowly fell into nothingness just as it's claws managed to purchase something on the thinner snow at the edge of the drop. The creature hung wildly half over the edge.

"For saviours sake" Elissa whispered "CHARGE IT DOWN!" she screamed, her fist tightening around her sword as she ran towards the edge blade held high "BEFORE IT GETS BACK UP!"

She was joined by the rest of the crew as they all charged at the teetering animal. It's eyes full of panic as it scrabbled on the edge,it's front hooves clawing desperately at the snow with little, wild movements.

Elissa was the first to reach it. She stamped down on the claws desperately trying to dislodge it from the cliff side. It huffed and let out a whine as Elissa managed to kick away one of it's hoofs. The other lost grip almost instantly, unable to support it's full weight and the claws slowly slipped towards the edge until there was no cliff left and the beast fell. Elissa watched as it slowly tossed and turned through free fall until it disappeared through the mist lower down the mountain. The only thing left was a soft whineing sound as the creatures wails echoed around the cliffs.

The crew collapsed, each of them laying back in the snow

"What was that thing?" was the question everyone was asking

"Lets just hope there aren't anymore of them" was the favourite answer

"Move the meat to the cliff edge, finish preparing it, tomorrow we're leaving" were Captains orders.

Chapter 4

After the fight the camp was a mess, the tent had been completely trampled and the fire had been extinguished save for a few embers that were scattered across the snow. The clean up however was relatively quick, the meat bear was carved and chunks of meat were placed in a steel bathtub saved from the wreckage and covered in snow for preservatio and to hide the smell of blood. Headly and Elissa built a single tent, large enough for them all to share on the final night and plans were being made for the exodus of the following day.

"As strange as it sounds" Headly said as he drove a tent peg into the ground "I'm going to miss this camp"

Elissa stared at him "That does sound pretty strange" she smiled "I can't wait to see the back of this entire mountain range"

A quick meal was prepared over a smaller fire and everyone ate hungrilly. The slightest sound causing everyone to jump and reach for weapons. The meal went along quietly, no more jokes, no more stories, the whole crew focusing soley on getting home.

"We really leaving tomorrow Captain?" Woods asked quietly, trying to break the silence

"We break down camp early tomorrow morning" she replied, not looking up from her flank of bear "I'm sick of this place"

Smiles were shared around the campfire as the sun ducked behind a mountain in the distance. When most of the crew had disappeared into the tent Headly approached Elissa.

"You still want a patrol through the night?" he asked

Elissa fell silent for a moment and pondered the idea

"No" she replied finally "I need everyone well rested for the morning, sleep near a sword though"

"Aye" he said and disappeared into the tent

Elissa looked around the campsite one last time, the snow bore deep footprints and bloodstains. The wreckage still littered the snow and the dirty ash and embers of their fire had charred a brown, muddy hole through the center. She wiped frost from her lips and smiled at the thought of leaving this place for good. She took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, the fine mist hung infront of her, slowly disapating and merging with the cold. She waved it away from her, the clammy warmth felt unpleasant so near her skin.

She turned on her heels and entered the tent.

* * *

The next morning the crew was awoken suddenly. The low rumbling sound from the morning before was back. The sound of a horn being blown a long way away, the dull vibration that filled the air. Elissa bounded out from the tent, her sword in her hand ready. The horn blew twice, as it did the morning before and then it left the silence, it left them alone once again.

"That same horn?" Headly asked, emerging from the tent

"Yes" Elissa replied softly "I guess we weren't going crazy after all"

Snow had fallen once again through the night, the ground was clean from a fresh sprinkling, the footprints covered and the blood hidden away. Another new day, the events of the past erased from everywhere except memory. Elissa shivered and raised her hood over her bright red hair. A lot of the wreckage was now hidden beneath a heavy white sheet of powder white snow. She stood and wondered how long it would take to erase every trace of their presence from the clearing.

"Pack up camp!" she yelled "We're out of here!"

The crew moved quickly, spurred on by their invested interest in getting off the mountain as soon as possible. The six pirates had begun to work stronger as a team, not used to this kind of camping, the nomadic lifestyle was already becoming second nature. They organised themselves into teams, taking down the tent, forming bundles, packing the meat and tidying camp ready for the long hike down the mountain.

Elissa watched over them and helped keep them in shape when necessary, one eye on the crew, the other on the exit towards the trail. The weather had held but the temperature had dropped sharply, clouds littered the sky and blocked the suns rays for long periods of time. It wasn't the best day to have picked for the escape but Elissa and the crew didn't want to stick around for anymore suprises. By midday the camp was packed away and everyone was ready to move. Elissa raised a pack onto her back and turned to her crew.

"It's been a long few days" she said loudly, eyeing each of her crew members "We've not had a moment to really comprehend what has happened here. As hard as it might be to imagine I think things are going to get harder before we get to safety but looking back over the few days in camp, looking back to the crash and the moments after that, looking across your faces. I don't think I'd rather be surrounded by anyone else."she said, a smile forming across her delicate features "You've fought well, I can't promise you treasure on this journey like I do on the others, but work well and you'll earn the greatest glory of them all. Survival"

The crew gave a yell of appreciation, raising there hands in the air

"And the Captain'll treat us to a pint at the nearest pub" Headly added to a thunderous applause from the crew.

Elissa laughed and grinned at Headly, rolling her eyes before turning towards the trail. She took a deep breath and took the first steps of the long journey.

The path had become icy overnight, the bitter cold wind had frozen the top layers of snow making the hike even more treacherous than the day before. After an hour of sliding around Elissa had ordered the crew be tied together, a long thread of rope tied tightly around each waist and threading back to the man in front and behind.
"We all fall together" Jack laughed as he tied a knot in his rope

The pirates cast an alien silhouette along the side of the mountain as they slowly made their way across the dangerous landscape. Used to open skies and rolling waves the six took slow, tentative steps which fell sharply and clumsily through the deep snow.

Ahead of the group was Elissa, she had refused to be tied to anyone, instead arguing the point that they needed someone to be on the lookout for food on the way down, in case the bear wasn't enough. She carried a bow, which she had tested a few times already, not wanting to be caught out by a damaged weapon again.

They had past the scene of the bear hunt a few hours ago and no-one had seen another animal as of yet. She crept through the snow looking about her, her fingers threaded with an arrow already loaded in the bow, ready for whatever may appear. Starting deep into the snow made her feel dizzy, the cold already stinging her senses. She glanced behind her, a bright light was making it's way down the pass, torches carried by Woods and Headly in case they couldn't get a fire started from scratch again. She moved forward again, her soft breath falling before her in a thin warm mist that swirled and disappeared in the mountain air around her. It was hard to tell how far they had walked but fatigue and hunger was already setting in. The more she moved forward the more the trail seemed to close in on itself. On one side was sheer mountain wall and the other was a cataclysmic drop that seemed to go on forever until it disappeared into cloud cover. Up ahead she saw a problem. The cliff wall jutted out sharply, the path disappeared almost completey from view and in it's place was a small ridge with barely enough room to walk along it.

Elissa cursed to herself, placing the bow on her back and crouching as close as she dared to the edge she craned her neck to try and examine how far the ridge extended.

It wasn't long until the rest of the crew caught up with her. They all realised the problem instantly.

Headly was the first to ask the question "How far does it go like this for?"

"I don't know" Elissa replied, glaring at him sharply "The rock face curves around"

"Do you think we can get around it?" Woods asked from the back of the group

"There's enough footspace to sidestep along it" Headly suggested, looking down at the ridge "It'll be tricky but I don't see any other choice"

Jack added "What about all our things? We can't carry the bath of meat over that"

They all looked at Elissa expectantly. She hadn't taken her eyes from the narrow ridge.

"Captain?" Headly asked
"Empty the bath" she said "Each fill your packs with meat but make sure they aren't to heavy. We have to get past this before nightfall. I'm not going to spend a sleepless night worrying about this. We go forward" she said with a soft grin, trying to inspire confidence in her men.

As the pirates struggled with their packs Elissa wandered towards the ridge. Grabbing hold of the rockface she swung herself onto the ridge letting loose a few small rocks that clattered and rolled their way down the cliff.

Jack looked around "Captain? What are you doing? You aren't even tied on"

Everyone looked up from their packs in alarm

"Don't worry" she said, her hands tightly gripping the rock "I'll make sure it's ok. Follow me around when you hear me shout"

She flashed them a grin before turning away and swearing to herself. The ridge was narrow, the heels of her feet were hanging over the abyss and it felt like the cliff was trying to push her over the edge. She sidestepped slowly, daring not to get complacent as she edged her way around the rock, the wind whistling around her body as she hugged the wall closely. Slowly edging her way around, the ridge widened and thinned, the rockface pushing her out and letting her lean against it, each step providing a different set of circumstances, testing her balance and courage to the extreme with the wind gushing around her. She cursed as she placed every step solidly before moving on, making sure her hands were firmly gripped in a hole or around a rock, she paused every five steps to slow her breathing it felt as though she were freezing solid against the impassive stone. The ridge eventually widened and after what felt like an eternity she was able to walk clear, collapsing exhausted into the soft snow.

"It's clear!" she shouted "Come on over!" her voice echoed into nothingness and she laughed. She didn't bother scouting ahead whilst her crewmates came along. She could hear them swearing and shouting as they supported and helped each other across the mountain. She prayed that they would all make it over and she breathed a heavy sigh of relief when she saw a hand reach around the cliff and a foot make it clear to safety.

"Welcome aboard" she said as she greeted Headly, taking his hand

"Permission to collapse Ma'am?" he asked laughing, already slowly falling to the ground.

Each crewman joined him in the snow as they made it to safely. Woods was shaking so badly from fear they thought they would have to pin him to the ground

"I'm just cold" he argued as everyone laughed.

The relief was palpable and Elissa allowed them to rest, laying back in the snow looking out over the mountain range.

Elissa looked about her, this side of the ridge seemed to be more open, the path ahead was a long downhill slope that raised sharply on one side. Her eyes narrowed as she looked off into the distance, something dark seemed to stand out against the white, "could it be a rock" she thought to herself. She placed a hand against her forehead to try and block out the sun and get a better look. She swore she saw it move slightly, as though it had stood up. Then there was a little flash from it which was followed shortly by a loud bang that echoed around the mountain, the sound of air ripping, of something zipping through the air and then the soft thud as something hit the snow near Elissa.
"What was that?" she said

The crew looked at her "What?"

"Didn't you hear that?" she said "Didn't you see that, that flash?"

There wasn't time to answer as another loud crack sounded from above. The fast rushing sound of something zipping through the sky and then something impacted hard against the side of the rock behind them and bouncing off into the snow.

"What the hell?!" Headly shouted

"Got grull" a voice from behind them .

The pirates all turned around to see a Dwarf emerge from the snow just a few feet away from them, and then another, and another. They were dressed all in white camoflague and each held what Elissa took to be a weapon that she didn't recognise.

"What's going on?" She yelled at the Dwarf who was speaking, her hand instinctively making it's way to the hilt of her sword.

"D'serackal" hissed one of them

"What the hell are you talking about?" Elissa asked, shock covering her face

"You under arrest" the Dwarf continued " this be holy ground." his voice faltering as he seemed to be attempting common tongue for the first time.

"Like hell we are!" shouted Jack, reaching for his sword. The closest Dwarf pointed his weapon at Jacks leg and swiftly pulled the trigger, there was a hissing sound as a small hammer thudded into a mechanism and then a loud bang as the weapon fired a pellet hurtling through the air which struck Jack in the leg, sending him hurtling to the ground in screaming agony.

"D'kerr kantal stillen noff" the Dwarf said softly.

Chapter 5

The crew were led through the snow, their wrists bound in front of them, their weapons confiscated. The Dwarves surrounded them and apart for a few utterances in comman parlance, they spoke to each other in their hushed Dwarven tongue.

"Where are you taking us?" Elissa demanded

The Dwarves didn't have an answer, they glared at her to be silent, one of them pushed her in the small of the back with the butt of his weapon. They were led a little further down the trail to a fork, one direction led further down the mountain but the Dwarves led the part down the other, which seemed to end quickly with an impass.

"I hope they don't expect us to climb that" Headly gasped, staring up at what he assumed was the peak and then back at Jack who was limping along at the back of the group. His wound had been hastily wrapped by Elissa and he was being carried by the other crewmen.

The Dwarves shared a short laugh with each other and walked ahead a couple more feet. Brushing away the snow they revealed a large wooden doorway. Four of the Dwarves surrounded it and with a concerted effort managed to lift it, bending it over on it's iron hinges and letting it slam into the rock wall behind.

"At least we aren't going any higher" Elissa whispered back to Headly.

"D'urch garoch!" shouted one of the kidnappers "D'urch garoch intra hoch". He pointed at Elissa and motioned for her to enter the hole.

"D'urch garoch, d'urch garoch" she repeated mockingly, unknowing what the words meant and walked past the Dwarf to peer into the hole.

There was a long series of steps carved out of the rock, they didn't go down far until they levelled out into a corridor. The first thing to hit her was the heat that was rising from within, her cheeks flushed as though she was near a fire.

"D'urch garoch!" the Dwarf repeated, anger rising in his voice.

Elissa shot him a look that silenced him for now and turned back to the hole, taking a few steps down inside. The rest of the crew followed behind her one by one, each of them flanked by a Dwarf until they were all inside. The door was slammed shut behind them and they were left in complete darkness.

"Ah great, this gets better and better" muttered Elissa as they wandered along the corridor in complete darkness. They managed to get close enough to each other to place a hand on the shoulder in front to help guide them along, of course this didn't stop Elissa from bumping and stumbling her way across the tunnel much to the amusement of the Dwarven kidnappers who laughed amongst themselves and seemed to delight in leading her into walls and other obstacles, their Dwarvish vision very much adapted to the dark conditions of the underground passageways.

After what seemed like an eternity of stumbling along in the humid darkness there came a slither of light at the end of the tunnel. The closer they got the more they could see until they found themselves stood looking down on an enourmous chamber carved from the rock. The light was being emitted from magma, scalding hot lava slithering it's way from high up, flowing slowly like a river until it was divided through two large channels down through the center of the room. Above them were large holes in the ceiling, the heat rising through. Dwarves were littered about the floor, working, directing the magma through a series of gates each leading into different channels, leaving the room through a variety of holes in the wall. Shouts of supervisors bounced across the room as they responded to some unknown demands. The stink of sulpher was almost unbearable and the heat stifling, Elissa felt dizzy just standing their looking down at the work going on below. She could barely contain her amazement and she stood agape at the sight, sweat pouring from her skin in the intense heat rising from the mountains heart.

The Dwarves escorting them hadn't noticed they had stopped and they turned around to see the six prisoners standing still with shock on the edge of the path.

"Grull kantar!" one of them yelled, waving his hand, telling them to follow. Pointing his weapon at them menacingly.

They obeyed begrudgingly and were led into a side room, one of the walls here was lined with barred wall, a large iron gate hung open on it's steel hinges. Inside the cell three raised mounds of stone, cut from the stone wall appeared to be a solid bed. The five men were led into one of the larger cells and the iron grate closed in place and locked with deafening finality.

"Wait" argued Elissa "Why are we being seperated?" One of the Dwarves tried to move her along but she pushed back

"No, we should all be together" she persisted. The Dwarves responded to the violence and each pointed the barrels of their weapons at her, clicking back the flintlock on each of them.

"Don't worry Captain" Headly said "We can look after ourselves"

Elissa looked into his eyes and nodded softly "Ok" she said in barely a whisper. She raised her hands and turned away, being pushed into a neighbouring room. She crossed another corridor which looked over the lava room, still unable to take her eyes from the scene below until she was pushed firmly in the back causing her to turn and begin walking down another corridor. Lanterns lined the stone walls here and as they progressed along the tunnel it became more and more populated. Elissa was aware that the floor was tilted downhill. The heat was still stiffling and with some small effort she managed to unbutton the furry coat. The shirt beneath was unbuttoned at the top, sweat glistening in the lantern light as her hair tumbled from her hood.

"Got!" shouted one of the Guards escorting her as he grabbed her coat and buttoned it up

"But it's..."

"Got!" shouted the Dwarf again interupting her.

The shouting had caused some of the civilians in the area to stop what they were doing and to look at her. Elissa didn't know much about the underdwellers, not many did, maybe she was the first human they'd ever seen. Elissa looked from face to face trying to work something out. "Where were all the woman?" she thought to herself.

As they walked on along the corridor she finally noticed a female face hidden beneath a scarf covering her hair, she wore a soft veil over her face and every inch of skin was covered with a long white robe. Elissa craned her neck to watch her walk on. She spotted more and more, some wearing what appeared to be fake beards, some wearing masks, they all walked closer to the wall than the men, and were almost invisible enshrouded in their robes.

The escort stopped walking

"Ker in tch" one of them said pointing off to a smaller corridor. They all walked down this similar narrower corridor, Elissas head spinning from the vastness of the gloom until they reached a door.

"Urch" the Dward barked as he opened the door and pointed inside. Elissa took this to mean "go" and entered the room. Another prison, cells lined the wall in this larger room. Just one of the guards followed her in pointing to a cell in the corner as he did. Elissa entered it and the guard slammed the cell shut, the deafening collision of metal against metal rattled her ear drums.

"D'gant" the Dwarf who closed the door said

"What?" Elissa replied

"D'gant, d'gant" repeated the Dward pointing to her and then his own hands

Elissa looked down at her bound wrists and nodded in understanding, extending her hands through the bars. He drew a short dagger and cut the ropes that bound her wrists together.
With that the Dwarves turned to leave

"Wait!" she shouted "What now?"

They made no reply

"I know you can understand me, you spoke common on the mountain, answer me"

One of them turned around and cleared his throat.

"Someone come along to answer du questions" he managed to say and left.

"Wait" Elissa said "WAIT!" but her shouts went unheard or unanswered her gloved hands curled around the bars of her cell. She was left alone in the prison, alone for the first time. She realised how hot she was, how humid it was within the mountain, she tore her gloves from her hands and removed her coat for the first time in a days. The air felt good against her skin, sweat rolled down her cheek and she used a glove to wipe her face dry. She rolled the sleeves of her shirt up to her elbows and unbuttoned it someway. Untucking it from her trousers and lifting the braces from her shoulders, letting them fall against her legs. The sweat glistened from her skin and she stood, arms outstretched, letting the air overcome her, enjoying the feel of her bright red hair against the nape of her neck.

She took a few deep breaths and decided to get a grip on herself. Brushing her hair back behind her pointed ears and stretched up to her full height, feeling her back crack and extend pleasantly. She walked out the length and width of the cell, it was small and dark, but cramped conditions were what she was used too, there was enough light to see a bunk in the corner and a hole which she assumed would be the toilet. Instantly one thought stuck out in her mind, one thing she was aiming at, one desire that filled her mind. She wasn't going to be spending a whole lot of time locked up here.

Elissas hands gripped the bars once again and she tested each one methodically, pushing and pulling with her full weight against each one to no avail, the Dwarven metalwork was outstanding. Breathless and with aching limbs Elissa sat down on the hard mattress and decided to think, to wait.

"What did that Dwarf mean" she thought to herself "Holy ground? We didn't see any temples. And those weapons they carried. They fired projectiles like compression sticks but they didn't have to boil water to displace the shot"

She stretched down and grabbed her ankles, a hundred thoughts shooting through her head at the same time and none of them making much sense to her. She tried to see out of her cell but it was no use, the door was embedded someway into the rock, even if she could crane her neck through the bars all she could see was rock. No matter how angry she was at her kidnappers she couldn't help being astounded by what she had seen. The rooms looked as though they had been carved from the rock, the stairs they walked down still bore scratch marks where picks had struck the stone and shaped the corridors and rooms. The amount of work to create this place was incredible. The way the Dwarves worked with the mountain and used it to their advantage was incredibly impressive to Elissa who was used to life on the run, using things and leaving, taking what she could and looking forward to the next place to eat, or the next person to fight.

She sat on the bed and bured her head in her hands, her hair falling forward, the elegant curls falling over her hands.

"Well Elissa. You get yourself into some messes" she muttered to herself "Sure, we can lose them in the mountains, that was a great decision". She exhaled a long breath, her big eyes closed in quiet contemplation of her options. There were few to choose from and the only other possible escape route, she glanced at the hole in the ground, well, she wasn't that desperate yet.

"So I gather you're Elissa" came a soft voice from around the corner

"Who's there?" Elissa asked "How do you know my name?"

"I overheard you talking to yourself just now, don't worry, I only just came in"

"Why don't you show yourself you coward" Elissa shouted into thin air

Her answer came in the form of footsteps, the light clinking of metal against stone getting closer until the figure rounded the corner. Stood before Elissa was a beautiful Human woman, she wore military armour protecting her legs but just a woolen garment across her body. She flicked a brown ponytail over onto her shoulder and stood tall before Elissa with her hands on her hips.

"I'm Anya Carrell, Arcadian military, very nice to meet you Elissa" she said with a soft smile

Chapter 6

Anya allowed Elissa to regain her composure slightly, the shock of seeing another friendly face so deep within Dwarven territory was very uncommon.

Anya strolled confidentally over to one corner and found a wooden three-legged stool, she dragged it over to the front ot the cell and sat down, crossing one leg over the other, sitting upright with delicate grace and poise.
"I'm sure you have many questions" she said at last.

Elissa watched her with suspicion and remained seated throughout. She wasn't wrong, there were plenty of questions swimming around inside Elissas mind but she had no way of knowing where to start with them. Anya noticed that she was stuck for words

"I see you're an Elf?" she suggested, waving a hand towards Elissa, showing that she had noticed the pointed ears and the Elven symbol tatooed on her face.

"No" Elissa replied, raising a hand to her ears defensively "Well yes and no, my mother was Elvish, my father was a Human"

Anya gave a little gasp of suprise "Interspecial children are incredibly rare. You're the first half breed I've met in my travels across Atlas. Please, pardon me for gasping so rudely. Tell me, why are you here?"

Elissa glared at her through large brown eyes.

"Perhaps" she hissed "You tell me why you're here. And why you aren't in a cell like the rest of us"

Anya smiled and stood up slowly turning her back on Elissa taking a few steps over to the far wall. "I can see there is a lot of suspicion in the air, and I can understand why. Neither of us expected to see the other so far from our homelands. My presence here however is quite simple. I was invited"

"Liar" Elissa laughed "The Dwarves haven't allowed the other races underground for over a thousand years. I may be a pirate but I know my history"

Anya didn't turn to face her, a little smile crossing her lips.

"Actually you're right" she began "In part at least. It appears I'm a special case, I protected the Dwarven ambassador on a round trip to the city Arcadia, I fought alongside his people and developed a, well a tenuous friendship. I was invited here by him. It is also he that asked me to come down here to speak with you." She turned to face Elissa once again, the Dwarves have known of your presence for a few days already. They've been watching you"

The pirate did a good job of holding a poker face. Her eyes slowly moving about the room "Is that what that horn was?"

"Horn?" Anya looked suprised

"Each morning we were woken up by a loud horn sounding, blown twice. What was that? Some sort of intruder alarm"

"Ah yes" Anya began her face dropped with focus "That is a very big question actually. I shall try my best to fill you in on details I am still learning alot about Dwarven culture myself"

Elissa leaned back on the bed as Anya positioned herself back on the chair, resting her chin on her hands. "Go ahead" Elissa said "I've got time"

Anya smiled at her "Not as much as you might think" she didn't allow her an explanation but instead began to describe the situation she had fallen into.

"When the Dwarves closed their doors after the forever war it was because of great civil unrest. The Alliance gave them, gave us all a common enemy to point our swords at, with that enemy gone we all found new targets. King Lavalla was the man who ordered the doors closed, he would later say that the 'he had forseen the destruction of the mountain in a dream' and he believed this was the way to survive.

Now, the Dwarves have always been an intensely religious race, without a history based on magic they instead turned to their home, the mountain for it's stories and it's reasoning. When the doors closed a lot of people turned back to religion instead of war for a reason to exist. The race was split in two those who believed and those who didn't. Back in the old days the final word belonged to the King and he ruled against religion, he believed it was dangerous, well, he was very prophetic lets say that."

"What happened to him" Elissa asked

"He was assasinated shortly after the decision was made to close the doors. You see one of the rules of their religion is that heretics should be killed, people who don't believe in the mountain are sinners and sinners are allowed by Dwarven law to be executed. After the King was murdered the great purge began. Remember this is around a thousand years ago now, but the religious filled these cells with the atheists and forced them to decide, convert or be killed. Thousands were butchered and the world had no idea. Imagine that, so much death and we didn't even know.The religious have been in control ever since."

"That's awful" Elissa gasped "I can't believe..why didn't people rise up to stop them"

"I don't really have a good answer for that, as you can imagine the historical journals here aren't exactly complete. The only thing I can tell you is that people didn't question it at the time, religion was a very touchy topic and much it was seen as rude to question people's beliefs. Because beliefs weren't questioned the society allowed people to believe what they liked, no matter how dangerous and reactionary"

Anya unclipped a little bag on her belt and lifted out a small silver flask. Slowly unscrewing the cap she looked at Elissa

"Need a drink?" she asked before putting the flask to her own lips and knocking it back.

"Sure, I think I'll need it" was the reply.

Anya leant forward and handed her the flask

"I never leave camp without a drink anymore" she said "Never know what you might run into"

Elissa nodded as she hit the flask back.

"So what was the horn?" she asked after swallowing

"Ah yeah" Anya replied "I almost forgot. It's pretty simple really. It's the call for morning prayer. As you can imagine it can be tricky to keep track of the time down here, when a Dwarf hears that he has a few minutes to drop what he's doing and then they pray to the mountain"

"So why could we hear it at our camp" Elissa asked, handing the flask back through the bars.

Anya smiled and brushed the pony tail from her shoulder.

"This is to do with why you have been imprisoned I'm afraid" she said "It's a rite of passage style ritual that all male Dwarfs embark upon. To prove that a young Dwarf has reached adulthood he must embark what they call 'silent pilgramage'. They leave the warmth of the mountain from the base and must climb atop one of the five peaks. These journeys are of great importance, not only to the individual Dwarf but also to the highest religious orders down here. When a Dwarf reaches a summit he must remain there until he hears a message"

"From who?" Elissa asked

Anya smiled and took a final swig from the flask before returning it to her belt

"The mountain" she said mysteriously "It's said that in the silence, in the solitude of the summit the wind whispers to you, tells you secrets, answers your questions. After the long journey to the top, after you've been walking and climbing alone for a week or two, once you've dragged yourself up and there is nothing left to climb, right then, you hear the voice of God"

There was a long pause as Anya gazed ahead at Elissa who was sat on the bed looking confused and completly lost for words.

"So they're insane?" Elissa was eventually able to ask

"I cannot possibly answer that" Anya replied "I'm a neutral party here. Suffice to say though these messengers return and are hailed as prophets for a 'year of celebration' where they live as monks for the church, a sort of religious conscription if you like. Every male has to go through it. These messages from the mountain are always a secret only to be told to the highest of the religious order. Some only hear a word, some say they hear full sentences. It's rare but a few are said to have conversations with the mountain, when that happens the Dwarf is allowed to join the religious order for life"

Elissas face was twisted in horror and shock. Kidnapped by highly volatile religious fanatics, how could it get any worse.

"You only mention the Dwarf men, what happens to the women?" Elissa asked

"Hmmm" Anyas brow knitted "They have fairly backwards views when it comes to gender I'm afraid"

"It sounds like they have backwards views about a lot of things" laughed Elissa

"Woman are almost like second class citizens here, it's the main reason that you are in a seperate cell block. Woman are seperate from everything I'm afraid to say, they even have to attend different chambers to pray, they work hard and are assigned a male to mate with. It's one of the points I'm working on whilst I'm here"

"How do they re-act to you whilst you're here?" Elissa asked her eyes were open wide in amazement at all this information "You're not just an outsider, but you're a female in a position of power"

"At first it was difficult, I still meet a lot of opposition, there are areas I am not allowed to enter and I have to respect their views and culture. It's difficult to say the least" Anya said looking towards the ground but eventually flashing Elissa a little smile. "I mainly deal with the ambassador I mentioned, my voice is passed through him"

"Well what has this got to do with me and my crew?" Elissa asked, frustration rising in her voice

Anya stood up and took a few steps away once more

"I'm afraid to say Elissa that you're crew fell on one of the pilgrimage trails, you interuppted a very sacred journey for a Dwarf and you desicrated the land with death. Even your presence their has to be cleansed"

"You're serious? I'm in prison for crashing my ship in the wrong place" Elissa was shouting, stood up with her face pressed into the bars of her cell "Are you serious?" she yelled

"Calm down" Anya said, approaching Elissa "I'm trying to sort this out, I'm not much here but I have some pull "The actual charges against you I'm afraid to say is herecy"

"But you said heretics get..." Elissas voice trailed off

Anya placed a hand on the bars "I'm trying my best to get you out of this. I have to go now" she started to walk away as Elissa collapsed back on to the bed. Anyas shadow stretched across the floor of the prison cell and halted at the entrance. Elissa sat up on her bed

"Is there something else?" Elissa called out

"Just a curiousity really" Anya replied from around the corner "How old are you?"

Elissa cursed under her breath and prayed Anya didn't hear.

"How old do I look?" she tried

"As old as any Elf looks" Anya called back "But that isn't any kind of answer. How old are you?"

"Does it matter?" Elissa asked anxiously

"I was just wondering" Anya replied

"Well errr" her voice wobbled nervously "I'm a little under a hundred, but keep it to yourself"

Anya smiled from the doorway. "Lucky" she said softly "You don't look a day over twenty five"

"It's not all glamourous" Elissa countered "The short lived never understand"

"I'll be back later" Anya called out from the corridor.

"Take your time" Elissa replied sarcastically.

Chapter 7

The passing of time in the mountain was difficult to judge. Without the sun or the stars Elissa was totally lost and completely alone. She could hear voices from the street, or what passed for a street down here and tried calling out a few times but no-one came to her voice. She worried about the rest of her crew, wondering what was happening to them, if they were being treated differently because they were male.

Her mind wandered back to what Anya had told her about life inside the mountain and also to what she had seen on the way to the cell. "How could a modern civilisation be so backwards" she wondered to herself. "Perhaps this is why the underdwellers are so secretive, maybe they think the world wouldn't understand this lifestyle."

Hours seemed to pass, the only face she saw was that of a young Dwarf who brought her some food and a glass of water, his face flushed when he saw the flesh of her forearms and the beads of sweat across her chest but he left without uttering a word. She devoured the food hungrilly the meat was tough and she spat out several pieces of stone and rock that must have fallen into the cooking pot.

The gentle hum of machinery somewhere close by was incredibly soothing and the rock around her seemed to creak gently, it reminded her of her ship, laying half asleep at night, the wood singing and talking in it's way. She smiled to herself and thought about her ship, the crew she lost and was reminded of the adventures they had had together. The memories filled her mind and took away her worries. Headly was an incredibly competant person, he would look after the rest. He'd saved her a countless amount of time in the past, always sauntering in at the last moment with a smile and a sword in his hand.

She closed her eyes at the memory of their first meeting. She had not long acquired her first ship and was sailing, the old fashioned way, from port to port looking for crew, those first few months were the hardest, her ship was damaged and she and her meagre crew were exhausted from manning the big ship between them. They had anchored down in a dirty little scrub port on the west coast and she had taken to shore to find a bar that was cheap.

The only treasure they could find in those days wasn't buried on a deserted island, it was in the pockets of gamblers in dens and bars. Elissa was as sharp at garot as she was at swordfighting. Thats what she did when she arrived at the bar, she entered with a few gold coins and after a couple of hours she had managed to sink almost all of her opponents. It was almost sunrise when she had caused her final opponent to wilt, a dangerous time for a garot player. He was a massive human, stink on his breath from a night of drinking, foam and food tangled in his black beard.
"You be cheating us you s**t" he spat at her "You ain't nothin but a theif"

"Take that back" she remembered saying indignantly reaching for her sword as she stood up sharply

"She's a cheat!" the bearded garot player called out to the rest of the bar

A large hand came down on his shoulder. It was Headly. He smiled and whispered something in the mans ear and winked secretly at Elissa. She just remembered staring in wonder as the beared man turned to leave, it was almost too good to be true, until he turned on his heels and socked Headly in the jaw.

It doesn't take much to start a bar fight in a dock pub early in the morning, the air is always tense, pregnant with battle. Someone shouts, a beer is spilt and the chairs start flying. Wood work splintered, the stink of ale filled the air as drinks were forgotten and fists were clenched. Nothing escaped being used as a weapon, Elissa ducked and dodged, diving out of the way of chairs and tables as well as tankards. A hand grabbed hers and she turned around sharply with a fist ready to fly at her opponent who, as it turned out, was Headly. He raised a hand to stop her fist and smiled "Not you as well". Simple words that brought a smile to her face. She chuckled to herself at she remembered the glint in his eye. They both fought together to get out of the bar with all the winnings and he had sailed with her ever since.

She smiled in that little cell inside the mountain, laying on her bed facing an impassible amount of stone. Her fingers walked along the cold rock and all of a sudden she felt a great sadness.


She sat up and spun around in the bed quickly.

"Ah, so you aren't asleep after all?"

In front of her were was the most magnificantly dressed Dwarf she had ever seen. His robes were so colourful and exquisite she thought she must be dreaming. He was clean shaven and held a staff that was almost twice as big as he was.

"Who are you?" she asked

The Dwarf gave her a small smile and turned away, beckoning for one of his escorts to bring him a seat. The same stool that Anya had sat in was produced and the robed figure placed himself upon it comfortably.
"I am Prodigal Efram" he said finally "You might say that I'm in charge of this district"

Elissa eyed him warily

"What do you want?" she barked angrilly

"Just to ask a few questions" he said passively, his eyes exploring the cell block as if it were his first visit "Just to ask a few questions and to listen to your answers"

"What have you done with my men?" Elissa asked, her voice low and full of menace

"Your men are fine for now" he answered instantly his eyes meeting hers for the first time. His words weren't at all reassuring and he let them hang in the air between them for a moment or two. "Would you like some more food" he asked, spying the empty plate

"No" came the short reply "There is more of gravel than of gravy about your food, or whatever that was"

Efram smiled "Ah, very clever. I must admit there has been a positive side to the opening of our doors. Your literature is one of them"

"You've read books from our culture?" Elissa asked

Efram smiled and waved a hand dismissively "A few in a select committe have been asked to analyse fragments of the surface dwellers" he replied "We receive art and literature from outside agents and we compile information"

"But you don't allow the citizens to read our books or view our art?"

"No" he answered "We deem that to be an unneccesary danger"

Elissa grimmaced angrilly in her cell "You keep these people uneducated, unknowing. So you can herd them like sheep. Is that it?"

Efram fell silent. He turned to his escorts and nodded, causing them to leave the room.

"I think this is where our questions might start" he crossed his legs beneath the robe "You say these men are yours. It's of great interest to the mountains ear...." he was interupted by Elissa

"Let me guess" she said impertantly "You want to know how a woman has command over men"

Efram turned around to his men, a smile erupting on his face, a cruel smile spread over thin lips, as he turned back he said

"Not just a woman, a half breed woman. You have neither the strength of the Elves nor of the Humans, nor of a man" his words fell from his lips like a whisper. Elissa just looked stunned, unable to think of any words to defeat such a statement.

She sat back down on the bed, feeling exhausted under Eframs gaze. He looked defiantly as she sat, he stood up from his seat and turned to leave

"I prefer to see my heritage as a strength" she said finally "I am neither Human nor Elf but I take my strength from that. It's my gift that I can learn as fast as an Elf can learn and I'm as curious as any Human is of exploration. It's my zeal and courage that causes my crew to follow me, my experiences and my desires that I own and share with each of them and I swear, I swear to whatever twisted God it is that you follow so blindly, I swear that if you harm any of my crew Efram it won't matter if I'm a Human, an Elf or a woman, my sword will take from you everything you hold dear"

Eframs smile faltered for a brief moment but his confidence remained.

"We shall see my dear" he said eventually "It is also of great interest to the mountains ear to know how long a half breed can live for" his smile returned "You could be down here for a very long time"

With those last words ringing in her ears, Efram left Elissa in her cell, completely alone once again.

Chapter 8

Exhaustion overcame Elissa and time was completely alien to her, inside the mountain it was forever day, or forever night a timeless hell of anxiety and unknowing. No-one had entered the room since Efram had left and Elissa hadn't wanted to see anyone else. Whenever she spoke to anybody inside this place it seemed like they were talking in riddles, raising more questions than they answered about this secret community.

She lay on the hard mattress using her coat as a pillow and faced the wall, trying to block out her mind. Confusion swirled around within her and she desperatley wanted to be re-united with her crew.

The fog inside her mind grew and grew and eventually her eye lids became heavier and she past through into sleep. Even her dreams had been tainted. Darkness and shadows filled her nightmares. She walked the dark corridors as though she were a Dwarf, but nobody accepted her, she looked around to see crowds of angry faces staring at her, jeering, shouting. She started running but the shouts followed her along the pitch corridors, the insults echoing around, bouncing from cold stone wall to stone cold wall, filling her mind, driving her senseless and crazy. She hit a dead end and turned to face the mob who circled her. Then she realised why they were following her, she was dressed in her shirt and trousers, her arms and neck were exposed for all the Dwarves to see. Letting out a scream she burst through the crowd who clawed at her and grabbed her hair and chunks of her skin, at the very back of the crowd she saw a group of Dwarven women, dressed in their ritual garments, she fell at their feet and begged for forgiveness from them but they just spat on her and kicked her away.

She lay on the floor of that dreamscape, freezing cold and crying. The confusion still swirling about her. Silence had descended and she looked up to see the corridor empty, except for one figure. Taller then a Dwarf, but facing the other way. It didn't matter though, she instantly recognised it as Headly. She crawled over to him as fast as she could, unable to rise to her feet but he seemed to not get any closer. The sound of a door creaking open confused her senses and she spun around to see nothing but darkness. She looked back to Headly who had turned to face her now, in his hand he held one of the weapons that the Dwarves had on the mountain.

"Headly! It's me!" she called out, but he didn't seem to hear her. Instead he placed the end of rifle in his mouth

"Nooooo Headly don't!!" She shreiked as two shots rang out.

She awoke with a start, sweat was dripping from her skin and she raised a hand to her tattooed cheek to find out that she had been crying. Her heart was racing and vomit raised in her throat as she looked around with darting eyes to re-establish herself in reality. As quickly as it had appeared to her the dream seemed to fall behind, burning up in the moment, but the shots, those two shots seemed to ring out in her ears long after she had forgotten the source.

Elissa sat up in the bed and allowed her thoughts to gather, she breathed softly through her mouth to give her heart a chance to slow down and the sickness in her throat to dissapear.

The cell looked identical to the way she had left it. Her eyes glanced around carefully, shadows licked at the floor from the torches on the wall, the blackness extending from the bars of her cell, reaching across the the opposite wall. She examined the dark lines across the stone, giving the effect of bars on all sides, parallel lines flickering and swaying, except.

Her head swung to the door, not all the bars were shadowed perfectly parallell, yes, somehow the door had become unlocked. It sat heavy on it's hinges slightly ajar. Elissa jumped to her feet and padded cautiously over towards the door, expecting a trick, or a trap. Reaching out a hand tentativley she made contact with the cold steel and pressed her weight against it. It creaked and groaned an ancient sound as it opened. Her eyes darted to the corners of the room to see if anyone was watching. No, she was alone, the door opened and she was alone.

She could barely contain her excitement, a broad smile gripped her face and threatened to make her scream with delight. She turned on her heels and grabbed at her coat, wrapping it up in a bundle and pressing it to her chest. It was time to get out of this pit.

She opened the door to the cell block with ease, the wood swung effortlessly on it's hinges without making a sound. The corridor beyond was empty, one direction was dark and one direction was light. She wanted to double back, go back for her crew but she had no idea how crowded the main street would be and more than that everywhere looked identical to her. She looked one way and then the other, trying to decide what to do next, not wanting to think to far ahead she decided to go with her instict, back to the main street, back to save her crew, towards the light, at least she could see the problems when they came at her. She ran as fast as she dared, her boots falling silent as she neared the turn onto the wider street ahead.

She pressed her back to the wall and crept through the shadows, hoping and praying not to be spotted by any keen Dwarven eyes. The road appeared practically empty, small figures passing off into the distance could just about be seen. Elissa smiled at her luck, it must be nighttime, or what passes as nighttime in the mountain. She rounded the corner and jogged up the street back towards the other set of cells, praying that her crew would still be there.

As she made her way along the quiet deeproads her heart beating deep in her chest. Her lips parted with prayer that she wouldn't bump into anyway. The whole corridor seemed far too quiet, the only sound she could hear was the distant hum of work being done ahead in the lava rooms. It was this that she was following, certain that it would lead her in the right direction, her bearings were completely scrambled with no signifiers on the ground or in the sky to give her hope.

Elissa trod carefully, still clutching her heavy coat to her front, squeezing it and twisting it between her slender fingers. The anxiety and paranoia was eating her from inside as she slowly made her way along the silent corridor.

After what seemed like an eternity of creeping through the dark she reached a crossroads. She couldn't remember which way she had turned, the sound that she had been following seemed to be eminating from all around, she couldn't get a fix on which road to take. Elissa cursed under her breath, a feeling of dread descending over her as along with the hum of machinery rattling around in her ears she also heard footsteps. Steps of a group of people, they could be guards, they could be just citizens, revellers, it didn't matter, she'd stand out a mile in anyones eyes. She looked down each road, trying to see through the dark, trying to spot where the steps were coming from. Then, there they were, shadows coming from dead ahead, she turned quickly and broke down the right street, darting wildly and as quietly as she could towards a tiny shred of light in the distance.

She'd made it, unseen for now. She stopped to look back, a small group of Dwarves ambled past the crossroads and continued there way deep in conversaion. Elissa pressed her back against the wall and breathed heavily, taking some time to compose herself.

The buzz of machinery was getting louder and closer and the air was getting hotter

"This must be the right direction" she thought to herself turning her head to see what was ahead. She squeezed the coat close to her and continued. It didn't take her long to find her way to the same ridge, looking down on the molten rock below. She peered over carefully, the pit was still full of Dwarven workers, shifting the lava and directing it to saviour knows where.

She quickly moved to the far side of the balcony, not wanting to be spotted, she knew that the cell block was just ahead, she could see the room cut from the rock. She jogged carefully up to the door and placed an ear against it, trying to discern if her crew were alone or not. Silence permeated the wood and she grasped the handle, carefully and silently pressing it down and opening the door.

The room was dark inside, there were no torches on the walls, the only light coming from the doorway from the red hot rocks but more notibly, the room was completely empty, no guards, no prisoners and no Headly.

"What the.." Elissa mouthed to herself in confusion, she stumbled up to the cell in confusion and felt tears run to her eyes when she saw the pool of inky liquid that she instantly recognised as blood.

The image of Headly from her dream instantly leapt into her mind, along with the rest of the crew, all shot. "What does all this mean?" she thought, "Why am I spared? Who freed me?" the thoughts and images overwhelmed her, so much so that she almost didn't hear the incoming footsteps, they were close when they reached her ears, when they registered with her senses, too close to escape. She looked around wildly for a place to hide, for a corner of shadows to slip into and become invisible. "The door!" she thought to herself, if she hid behind that she would never be seen, or at least she'd be at an advantage. She slipped behind it and crouched down in the shadows awaiting whoever was coming.

The footsteps stopped at the doorway, just a heavy wooden door stood between Elissa and the stranger. She held her breath waiting just a few more seconds until the figure emerged, one more step and she'd be able to attack, attack and then escape.

Elissa rose to her feet slowly without making a sound just as the stranger emerged. Elissa stepped forward instintivly to attack and only just stopped herself in time

"Anya!?" she said as she realised who her opponent was

Chapter 9

Anya turned around sharply and jumped back at the sight of Elissa standing so close with her arms raised ready to deliver a crashing blow

"What are you doing here? Where are my crew?" said Elissa, unable to hide the panic in her voice as she lowered her fists.
"Oh Elissa" exclaimed Anya in relief "Thank the saviour I found you first. I've got to get you out of here"

Anya was almost the opposite of her appearance when they had first met. She was visibly shaken, her hair hung low against her shoulders and beads of sweat marked her brow. Her eyes darted around and her lips were curled with concern. She grabbed Elissa by the wrist and started dragging her towards the other door

"No, I'm not going without my crew, where are they?" Elissa protested

Anya didn't stop moving towards the doorway

"I don't know, they were taken away, somewhere in the mountain where I'm not allowed to go"

"Who's blood is that?"

"I don't know" Anya said quietly "Stop fighting we have to go"

"No, I can't leave my crew"

Anya stopped and turned around delivering a hard slap across Elissas face

"You don't understand do you?" Anya said, fury growing in her eyes "You don't understand what I'm risking getting you out of here. I didn't realise you were in this much trouble, I was trying to get you out diplomatically but there is still much I don't understand here. By the time I found out that they had plans for you and your crew it was all I could do to run to your cell door and unlock it. There was nothing I could do for your crew"

"What plans? What are they going to do?" Elissa begged

"I told you I don't know but if we don't get you out of here you might find out" Anya said quietly as she turned around and led Elissa out of the door, this time without any opposition.

The pair left the room in silence and Anya half ran, half dragged the exhausted Elissa up a long corridor in the dark, there were so many twists and turns in the path out Elissa felt completely out of control, like she was sliding down a flume without any idea of where she was being led.

"Where are we going?" she hissed towards Anya

"We're already here" Anya replied as she thrust Elissa up against a solid wall.

"It's a dead end, I don't understand"

Anya didn't reply, somewhere in the darkness Elissa heard her straining against something and then a shaft of light beamed down, filling the corridor. Looking up she could see that Anya was opening a door to the outside of the mountain.

"Don't just stand there" Anya said struggling. Elissa immeadietly jumped to action and pushed against the door, opening it slightly

"Now go" Anya barked

"What about you? Aren't you coming?"

"They don't know I had a hand in your escape, I have to stay and find out more" Anya said, still struggling with the weight of the door "Now go"

Elissa climbed up through the small gap, gripping the cold rock above

"Anya?" she said when she was half way through

Anya already knew what was going to be asked "Elissa" she said "If I can do anything for your crew I will. Now go!"

Elissa slid through the rest of the gap, and instantly started tumbling. The door exited onto a steep slope covered in snow and ice, Elissa fell, rolling head over heels down the mountain unable to tell where she was going. After what seemed like an eternity of falling the ground evened out and she slid to a stop, curled up like a ball around her heavy coat.

Her head was spinning, agony and exhaustion filled her body and blinded her senses. The cold permeated her every pore and caused her bones to ache. She pulled the coat on quickly and knelt in the snow looking around through squinted eyes revelling in the sight of the morning sun and the smell of fresh air filling her lungs.

There was something moving in the snow nearby. Elissa could feel herself almost start to cry, it was too much to face something else when she was so close to freedom. The sound of crunching snow came again, behind her. Her fingers crept forward in the snow to a rock that was nearby, she didn't dare look around. Closer and closer to the large stone her hand moved whilst the sound of footsteps, the feeling of a presence getting closer and closer and closer. Her heart racing, she couldn't bare the suspense any longer, she dived forward and grabbed the rock, climbing to her feet gracefully and spinning on her heels with the rock above her head, ready to crash down on the skull of whatever she faced.

"A horse?" she laughed maniaclly "A freaking horse!"

The stone fell from her fingertips and she stepped towards it, beckoning it to not be afraid. It was tame and saddled ready for a journey. She located the saddlebags quickly and opened them. She pushed her hand in and rooted around finding bread and water. She smiled to herself, "Finally" she thought as she took a bite from the bread "I have a bit of luck" there was something else inside the bag and she grinned happily clenching it to her heart.

She jumped up onto the horse and pressed her heels into it's side causing it to walk onwards, downhill towards freedom. In her hand she gripped the small metal flask from the saddlebag and took a swig of it's contents, swallowing it hard and smiling as the warmth filled her body.

The End

© 2010 Stories Of Atlas

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Added on March 25, 2010
Last Updated on June 30, 2010
Tags: Fantasy, adventure, short story, action, sci-fi, steampunk