• Published 26th Sep 2022
  • 180 Views, 15 Comments

Summit - Daedalus Aegle

A story about climbing a mountain

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You can do this

This is it, Clover. Just breathe.

Clover the Clever looked ahead at the rocks that blocked his path.

The frozen air was crisp, and ice crystals glittered in the light. The snow blew in front of his face, whipped up by a sharp breeze. He had been traveling all day to get there, and though the sun had already set and the sky was dark, the snow made it light enough for him to keep going.

The rocks were large, and tall, and he did not like the idea of jumping from one of them to the other, but the road he had walked led to them and nowhere else. A sign placed by the road had long ago fallen apart, its message destroyed. He looked down at his hooves and up at the first rock, gauging the gap between the two and his chances.

Why are you so nervous?

Drawing a deep breath, he jumped the distance and slammed his hooves down firmly on the stone, his legs tense, feeling for the slightest sign that the rock might not be entirely steady under his weight. Finding nothing, he let out his breath, and looked ahead to the next rock.

It had a patch of what might be snow, or might be ice. He eyed it suspiciously, mentally calculating if he would be better off aiming for somewhere else and if that would be harder, before once again steeling himself and jumping across the shadowy gap whose bottom he could not see to land safely once again.

The next rock was closer, and further down, and when he landed he skidded slightly and felt a moment of terror before he settled, and the fourth jump brought him to safety and solid ground on the far side.

A steep incline up the icy slope took all his balance and caution, climbing slowly from one secure hoofhold to another, until he reached the top.

The snow crunched under his hooves as he crossed the ridge and wandered up an old path between the trees that led to a wooden cabin lit by a glass-covered candle-lantern. Smoke rose from the chimney, and outside stood an old stallion in a wizard’s robe and hat, with a long white beard. He turned his face up as if to feel the cold wind more clearly, and he didn’t make any sign of noticing Clover as he drew near.

“Excuse me,” the young pony said. “Is this the road to the mountain trail?”

The stallion turned, as though only just then noticing him. “You’re almost there,” he said with a habitual, wistful smile. “It’s just across the bridge.”

“Thanks,” Clover said, and walked past without another thought. Once he was past the cabin he stopped, thought a moment, and looked back. “Was that your sign back there? Just so you know, the road up here collapsed. I could have broken my neck getting across.”

The stallion let out a laugh. “If you almost died getting to me then the mountain might be too much for you!”

Clover blinked, and bit his teeth together behind his lips as his insides tied up in knots inside him and his shoulders curled inwards. “Well if a lunatic like you can survive here I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“Suit yourself,” the old pony said with the same easy mirth. “But you should know, Mount Celestia is a strange place… You might see things. Things you’re not ready to see.”

Clover’s insides were burning, but his eyes were as cold as the snow that fell before them. “You’ve been alone too long, old goat.”

The stallion laughed again, and the laughter followed Clover for a long time as he walked down the road to the bridge.

It ran over a river ravine, deep and invisible in the shadows below, and it was long and narrow, made of stone and wood together, and on the far side he could see the road continue up into the old city at the base of the mountain he was here to climb.

He looked up at the enormous thing, stunned for a moment by the sheer scale of it. He stared until the stinging cold air forced him to close his eyes, and he lowered his head, breathing deeply. Emotions ran across his face, and he shook his head to chase them off, and began to walk across the bridge.

When he was two lengths along he felt the stone shake, and heard the rumble as it began to collapse behind him. His face fell, panic rushing into him and blotting out his thoughts, and as mortal terror filled him he began to run as the bridge shook loose stone by stone underneath the weight of his steps and fell away into the darkness.

A section of the bridge in front of him was already fallen, something he hadn’t seen from the starting side, and he leapt across the gap and kept running on the far side as the entire bridge fell behind him, and he could feel it shift and tumble under his hooves as he ran. Another gap stood between him and the last stretch, and with all his strength he tensed his muscles and jumped

The stone he kicked off from came loose and dropped into darkness behind him, and as he stared at the last piece of bridge in front of him it too dissolved into rubble and slipped away, and he knew there was nothing before him to stop him from falling to his death in the cold, and the darkness.

In the last moments of his life time seemed to stretch out to infinity, locked in the moment of terror. And in the last psychotic delusion of a mind seeking escape he thought he saw a black bird swoop down before his eyes, and land on the ground on the far side of the ravine, and peck at the frozen earth, and turn and look at him.

His horn glowed with a spell suddenly placed there out of nowhere, and knowing nothing else, at the end of his life, Clover cast it.

With a jarring shock he thrust forward through the air in stark defiance of all laws of motion, and he touched the frozen ground and felt the icy grass crunch under his hooves. His lungs were burning as he drew deep, rapid gasps of air, the pounding of his heart loud in his ears, and he felt all four of his knees shake as he slowly took in the fact that he was alive, he was on solid ground again, and it wasn’t going to disappear.

Slowly, he was able to move again. He raised his head, his eyes small and doubtful, and he clenched them shut.

You can do this.

He took one step forward, and then another.

Author's Note:

This is a story about climbing a mountain.