Picture taken by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use)
Jasper dismounted and landed with a soft thud. Clouds of swirling dust eddied and clung to his boots, but his eyes were fixed on the foreboding mountain before him. Dawn’s pale light tickled the edge of morning, as Jasper strode purposefully towards the foothill.
Already exhausted from days of travel, nights beneath the stars, and years of battle across the border, he paused at the foot of the mountain and rested his hand upon the hilt of his sword. He took a moment to drop to his knees and bow his head. He rose with newfound strength, and stared up into the depths of the giant silhouetted before him. His neck arced as he traced the lines of the mountain, until his eyes picked out a tower cut into the side of the cliff, not far from the top.
He could have ridden up with ease in the saddle upon his dragon, but this was a journey that needed to be made by foot.
Jasper checked the straps on his pack and quickly downed a mouthful from his water skin, before glancing up again at the tiny tower. The sun rose behind the mountain and barely any light crept to the bottom of the track. He looked over his shoulder; his dragon was curled beneath a crop of rocks, soothing away the endless days of travel in heavy slumber. Faint rays shimmered across his scales, and Jasper smiled.
He was up the lower slopes by the time the sun peered over the summit, and moving onto the less traversed trail. The going was tough, but the pathway ascended and Jasper climbed.
Rocks and crags jutted across the path, and Jasper began to swelter in the midday sun as he ducked and vaulted under and over stony obstacles. The ruthless heat pervaded the shade, beads of sweat glistened on his brow and muscles complained. His ragged breath growled in his throat but he knew the journey was worth making.
He sank down onto a boulder and rubbed his calves. He laughed, imagining how good icy water would taste, but this mountain was dry and he gulped down a mouthful of tepid water from his skin instead. He stared up into the peak, the tower was hidden behind the stack of rock before him, but he knew she watched and waited, and he wasn’t about to let her down, again.
He tightened a boot buckle and rose from the ground, smoothed down his jerkin and pushed up his sleeves. The path got steeper and, as the sun baked, Jasper pushed on. Loose rock made the path harder and the heat beat down upon his damp hair. Red streaks shone through his auburn locks, and dark, wet straggles stuck to his face. Rivulets of sweat ran down his scarred cheek, down his neck and across his taut chest. He paused and loosened his leather tunic, releasing buckles and opening the neck of his shirt. As he climbed, Jasper sighed with relief as the relentless path cut through high tors and finally moved out of the sun.
Memories coursed through his mind as he rested; battles out on the field, the clang of sword and the weight of armour. Blood curdling screams and cries of triumph echoed, and he wondered if she’d forgiven him for leaving her?
He lifted his hand to his chest and fingered a scar running from his shoulder to his heart. The offending sword should have run him through, but a side step he’d learned while sparring with her as a child had saved him. Now he was coming home, and nothing was going to stop him.
He climbed, even though the path was now gone and the trail nothing more than a narrow ridge on the edge of the precipice. He climbed through the glare of the afternoon sun, until a prominence blocked his way, and the ridge faded beneath his feet.
He balanced, hugging the bluff, his eyes scanning and his fingers feeling desperately around the protrusion for a notch, a nook, anything… Fear rose, a flame of dread curling within his belly, and he glanced back at the rock face stretching behind him. There was no other way, no other path, and yet, his way was barred and he had nowhere to go.
Beyond the overhang, the roof of the tower peeked enticingly, but the rock yielded nothing beneath his fingers.
His heart dropped, until a sweet voice spoke softly. “We can move mountains…”
He shook his head trying to rid his brain of delirium.
“We can move mountains…but we must move them together…” Her voice hung in the cloying air as he balanced, and his aural hallucination extended to other senses as the scent of honeyed neroli wafted on the breeze.
He hugged the cliff and stretched his hand around the lump of rock. A kiss settled like a butterfly on the back of his hand and then two strong hands gripped his. His mind whirled with impossibility and recollection of gymnastic moves learned when he was young. What he’d learned on the battlefield would serve nothing up here, but her gravity defying acrobatics filled his mind.
“Move this mountain aside…” came her command and he acquiesced, allowing her strength to pull and flip him as he jumped. His arm twisted, and his shoulder was almost wrenched from its socket as he rotated in the air with death-defying grace, but he landed beside her on the other side of the plateau.
She stood in glory, her lithe figure clad in leather and her golden hair a shining halo in the evening sun. Green eyes twinkled, “You do, indeed, have a lion’s heart!” her voice rang out, but before she could say another word, he leaned close, placed his impatient lips against hers and claimed his lioness.
After taking part in a couple of music based fiction writing works, I joined Ruth Long’s band of writers to write for an album called:
‘My Friends and I’.
Cover Art by Micah Van Zandt
An ebook has been produced (Links to be added when book live) and the artwork donated by the talented Micah Van Zandt – artist, musician and performer. He used the writers’ pictures to design an ebook cover, mimicking the CD cover.
I chose a gorgeous and evocative track by Sommer Cooks called ‘Lionheart’.