I reached the legendary floating isle of the Sage Agemo shortly after the sun had passed its zenith. After the original panic had passed at not seeing him around his rough wooden house, I noticed that there were supplies laid out for his return. I collapsed, exhausted and a little relieved that I had a chance to regain my composure before he arrived. I believe I slept for well over a day, possibly two or three, before I awoke, my body shivering uncontrollably from the cold winds and my joints wishing that I had changed out of my rusty armor into something more comfortable. I eventually managed to shove my feet under me and enter Agemo’s house (I figured that my dead body rotting on the doorstep would be more of an offense than a minor intrusion), and settled at his table. I forwent searching through his storage for food and instead ate hungrily from the little bits of crusty dried bread and almost rotting cheese that remained of my food for the journey. Left with nothing else to do but shake in my armor (I eventually discovered some flint with which to light a fire in the hearth), I decided to take out my journal and record the last leg of my journey.
The Drifting Peaks had always been a source of legend and wonderment for me, even with my pragmatic and unnecessarily boring instructors, and I had been initially filled with excitement when I spotted them floating high above the mountains. They looked as if some large mountain had been roughly smashed into bits and hung high in the sky. Although I knew the source of their flight had been explained by scientific scholars long ago, it was difficult to brush off the magical awe I felt when I first sighted them. Of course, the journey ahead was filled with breathtaking and, dare I say, magical views, but it was also filled with deadly perils that truly explained to me why no great kingdoms had been built amongst those peaks.
I climbed Mount Heigh with little difficulty, my mule following the trail with little effort, though I was forced to abandon the packhorse when it fell in a landslide. Luckily enough, I had been prudent to keep my food and a few other vital supplies in my backpack, though my extra clothes, my crossbow, and other amenities perished with the poor thing. I was also fortunate to have taken the effort to memorize the map that was the key of navigating this spiderweb of floating rocks before it disappeared into the rocks with my mule, though it was a copy of Thesseus’s route to Agemo and inaccurate in the current day due to the natural drift of the peaks over the centuries.
I finally stepped off into the Drifting Mountains proper from a rickety wooden bridge. I decided to leave my mule to his own ends at that point, though I was kind enough to remove his saddle and bridle. I resigned myself to walking for the rest of the arduous journey, as well as a long walk home should I make it out alive. The first “peak” was a small and unspectacular one, aside from a grove of trees in which a group of primitive ogres dwelt. As soon as I passed by, the three brutes ambushed me, armed with crude clubs. Though it would have been easier with my crossbow, my sword made short work of them, bulging muscles and all. I was immediately thankful that I had chosen endless hours of drilling the dreaded brutal sword-teacher, despite the option of a much easier time learning the quarterstaff.
The brutish ogres proved not to be totally useless as their camp had an abundance of rope and grapnel hooks, which became immediately helpful as I had to somehow get up to the next peak floating high above. It took three tiring throws to get it hooked on a strong pine, and I decided that my shield was far too bulky and heavy halfway up and I dropped it to the ground far below. It was more dangerous to do so if I encountered enemies, but I thought it less likely than the shield dragging me to my death on a rock climb.
Three peaks and half a day later, I had reached a massive mountain that brought me hope (despite that the climb would be very difficult) because it had been a large landmark on the map. My rope could only snag on some rocks high above and I did not trust the holding, so I climbed the hard rocky surface with my hands and feet, depositing my boots, gauntlets, and cloak in my pack despite the freezing winds of the high altitude. I nearly slipped and plunged to my death several times, leaving me wondering how Theseus the Scholar had made the journey all those years ago. I am a warrior in what is perhaps my physical prime and a well disciplined body, but he had been merely a scholar with a lot of determination. Even I felt reckless attempting this journey alone and dearly wished I had some companions, but the scholar had apparently done this trek by himself as well and came out unscathed. My pack snagged on an angry tree branch growing from the side of the mountain, ripping it and sending my life-giving cloak fluttering away to find a new owner. Though I was sad for its loss, I was relieved that the ropes hadn’t fallen out as well before I could close the hole by ripping some of my clothing and tying the hole shut.
It took me another half day, with the moon high in the sky, for me to finally reach the top of the cliff. I did so in a cold sweat and with shaking arms, for several times during the journey I had felt the urge to simply let go and forget everything. It was very frightening for me, feeling myself start to just slip away and my grip loosen on the rocks. At first I thought I was growing tired and feared that I would not see the safety of the mountaintop, but after a while I recognized the aura of Qahmer, god of dreams. This realization helped me fight it off somewhat, for my quest is more important than my very life and much depends upon it.
I used my grapnel and rope and climbed up to a smaller peak and was vastly relieved to feel the tingles of his aura dissipate. I understood rather quickly why most would-be adventurers had fallen to their deaths instead of completing the climb. The aura of Qahmer merely made them not care anymore and whimsically let themselves fall to their deaths. It was a chilling-no downright frightening thought for me, for I had always grown up with a strict discipline under the tutelage of the Priests of Xabre. I was given new energy by my fear and disgust, and I scaled three more peaks before dawn came and all my exhaustion hit me at once.
I was tired and my arms felt as if they were going to fall off, but I finally spotted my destination floating in the sky above me. It was a small isle in the sea of floating rocks, but it bloomed with several trees that were blowing in the harsh winds of the high altitude and a couple of sheep grazed ponderously on a few tufts of grass. I hefted my pack and made the last bit of the climb with my eyes blacking over with almost every movement and my hands feeling as if they had been rubbed raw.
The warmth of the fire warms my heart and some color is finally returning to my skin, though I do shudder to think that I shall have to climb back down this wretched maze of floating rocks when Agemo finally arrives and I speak with him. That is, if he does not just toss me off the cliff for breaking into his house.
- M, Knight of True Order