What Yohan first felt was the air stream that moved fast alongside the arrow, brush by the side of his face barely missing him. Then he heard the twang of the bow string that comes from releasing an arrow.
“You didn’t notice me nor did you notice the tiger.”, Rijiju spoke as he let his hand with the bow fall to his side and started walking towards Yohan. He reached Yohan and cuffed him in the head which brought Yohan back to his senses.
He turned around to see the arrow sticking in the blue eye of the snow tiger that had somehow lashed onto the rocks and was beginning to climb back. He had forgotten to check on it. Idiot.
He watched on as the tiger slid back down the cliff.
” I should have let the beast climb the cliff, I wouldn’t have lost an arrow.”, mused Rijiju. He suddenly stopped speaking and sniffed the air and looked down at Yohan.
” Did you piss yourself, boy? “
Yohan felt his face turn red.” No, “, he stammered. A grin broke Rijiju’s face.
” You sure?”. It didn’t seem like a question to Yohan.
He didn’t look back at Rijiju and instead stared at the point where the lion had gone over the cliff again. Looks like one of his wishes finally came true. Now if only Rijiju would consider jumping after the arrow he lost.
” Will it come back? “, Yohan asked.
“Its dead”, replied Rijiju “Let’s go back, I am hungry”
Clawed hands grasped on the rock, trying to purchase a grip on one of the rocky ledges, scratching the rocks as it almost slid and lost its grip. The man clung to the rocks buffeted by the strong morning winds lashing at the mountain side. He had leather gloves over his hands resulting in long claws at the fingertips. He had been hanging by the mountain overhang for a while now, the ones below him had started to wonder whether he had left the world, leaving them hanging behind by his frozen body.
The night before had been cold, the problems with mountains like Ayankal wasn’t that it was freezing cold in the winter. The problem was that it was almost unclimbable by the way of the cliff. Assassins can’t probably walk in through the gates. Kalchi could do away with his targets with ease, they have their weaknesses and that can be used against them, but a mountain doesn’t have any weakness; it just stands there unmoving, exhaustingly so.
He could hear the claws scratching at the stone, the man above him, Shaikul it seems was still alive. Kalchi glanced up and saw that the man was starting to move again, a shadow of the mountains. He felt the pull of the rope that was tied to him by Shaikul, tug gently.Move your ass up, the gesture meant.
He stabbed his gloved fingers in the crevices in between the rocks and pulled himself after Shaikul, he didn’t have any clawed gloves, the type that Shaikul used. Leave the expert tools to the experts.
Shaikul was the better climber among them, maybe the best climber in all of the Aranthi. The man was from Teral, hilly, cold and barren lands of the north. Kalchi, on the other hand, was from the west, were the land spread its hand towards the ocean. The kingdom of Thriankal didn’t have any mountain peaks like the type that dotted the north and east.And it certainly didn’t grow any mountaineers among its people.
Kalchi breathed in cold air through his mouth before he took his next step. He had caught a cold somewhere during the climb last night, and he was having a hard time breathing. He winced as his foot found a place between the rocks to wedge his toes. His shoes had been torn during the climb and his toes had started to bleed, and it was starting to hurt badly.
He tugged on the rope, to let the two laggers, who were coming up after him to move up. He will have to cut them off if they prove to be a dead weight. Oli was an old hand in the game, but had taken a nasty bite in the last work and wasn’t doing well. Bhashi, on the other hand, was new to all this, he is young. Probably hadn’t even made sweet love to a girl yet. It would be too bad to cut them off.
Half an hour later, the wind had abated but Kalchi was thinking of cutting himself off and helping himself off his misery. It still looked a long way up from where Kalchi was hanging. Tugs from above, this time, three-two-three in that order. Almost there. Why is he reassuring me? Does he suspect I will cut myself off?
Suddenly Kalchi felt the ropes tighten around his waist as if he was being pulled down. The wind had started howling sometime ago, and it had covered the sound of Bhashi losing his grip and falling while screaming his guts out. The rope tied to him had stopped him from falling to his certain death, but he had his head on the rock while falling and had gone limp and was hanging unconscious by the rope.
Kalchi echoed the curses Shaikul spewed out as he also felt the pull from below. He looked up, Shaikul had stopped moving and it seems he was looking down. Would we be cutting ties today?.
Tugs from above three two three, then a pause then it repeated in another order two-one-one. No cutting?. We are going to die. Kalchi relayed his answer back.
Answering tugs asked him to wait. Then, he felt the rope connecting him and Shaikul slacken and come tumbling down. Kalchi hissed Shaikul’s name but didn’t move. He wasn’t sure as to how much he could move.
After a few more time that Kalchi used constructively to curse the living and dead that he had come across In his life, another rope fell to his side. It looked a bit old, but it had been reinforced by binding it to another rotting rope. Kalchi looked up. He could see Shaikul’s head up at the edge. He was waving him to take the rope.
” I hate mountains” he murmured. Five minutes later, when he lay gasping for breath on the top of the cliff. The rope was still tied to his waist and the rotten rope was still held in his palm; to his side, Oli was sitting on a rock, watching Shaikul administer to Bhashi’s wound. A rock must have clipped him when he hit the mountain wall.
“Where did you get the rope? “, he asked Shaikul to which Oli pointed to a wooden pole that was somehow erected in the middle of the rock that jutted towards the cliff. How did they get the wood on a rock? Crazy monks. His eyes wandered to the tens and hundreds of lights that shown behind them from the windows of the buildings in the sanctuary, in the early morning light.
He looked back at the cliff. The sun was coming up over the horizon, behind the pole. The wooden pole had the one end of the rotten rope still tied to it. Kalchi let the rope end in his hand drop as he walked towards it. Some paper lay strewn beneath the pole, most of it had been carried off by the wind.
Kalchi picked up one of them. It had some mojo glyphs are drawn on it, which somehow had stayed on even after being exposed to the elements. He crumbled the paper and threw it down the cliff.
At the same moment, the winds shifted and the morning chants from the sanctuary drifted towards him.