No Man’s Land
January 11, 2016
The snow had hammered them through the night. If they had been in the open without a fire, things could have been close, which begged the question how would the next night go and how many more nights would there have to be?
Jack doubted anyone had gotten much sleep and as he kicked the snow off his backpack, he took in the mountain pass stretching before them. Maybe a foot of new snow had fallen. With the patches of ice concealed, the way could prove slow and arduous.
Turning back to his team, he found them clutching at their blankets while trying to hover as close to the fire as possible. Unlike him, they were all lowland jungle folk. He doubted any of them had even seen snow. They each looked equally miserable and he remained half surprised that they weren’t already headed back to warmer climbs.
“I hope those Lava Dragons live up to their names somehow,” Stalker griped. “It would be nice to warm up somehow, even if it is in their stomachs.”
“Maybe we should just get going,” Jack suggested. “The walking will help warm us up.” With plenty of bell-aching and stiff movements, the small group wolfed down some cold jerky and gathered their meager gear in order to press on.
* * *
They had marched past midday. The toll on their bodies was epic. The higher elevation caused the air to thin and each footstep through the snow became more and more difficult. Shoulder straps and weapons weighed heavy on them. They rarely spoke other than to beg for a rest every hour or so. Still there was never any relief from the driving wilds and bitter chill.
They had just crested a ridge that had taunted then for the last two hours. As he reached the top, Jack was taken back to the massive valley the stretched between ice covered towers of black rock. It was beautiful in its own way, but might just be enough to seal their doom.
He was just searching for a place were they could try to survive the night, when Tynilia shouted his name and pointed ahead of them.
“Look, Jack, look!”
He hadn’t noticed it before, but in the far distance inky smoke could be seen spiraling into the air. The mountains before them blocked any view of where the smoke might be originating from, but since the Lava Dragons must have gotten their name for some reason, he figured this had to be a good sign.
“Finally, we’re catching a break” he said, but then, as if to contradict his words, the mountains began to move. At first he thought that if could be an avalanche or an earthquake, but then he saw living creatures emerging from where they had hidden within the snow.
They were tall fierce looking half-beasts. Long bone white hair hung from every inch of the forms. Fanged teeth the size of fingers protruded from their mouths when they opened to issue a terrible roar. Long raking talons topped their fingers and dug into the snow as the rushed toward them. He guessed that they could be as many as forty.
To be continued next Monday